Australia offers $500 million to fight climate change in Pacific

13 August, 2019, 19:56 | Author: Wade Massey
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Morrison appeared to curry favour with small island nations on Tuesday, proposing to redirect AU$500 million (US$340m) from existing aid funds to boost investments in renewable energy and climate and disaster resilient infrastructure.

Fiji's prime minister Frank Bainimarama, who presided over the 2017 United Nations climate talks, directly appealed to Australia to transition away from coal "to energy sources that do not contribute to climate change" during an informal meeting in Tuvalu on Monday.

A little bit of politics involved Pacific Islanders have declared a climate emergency, calling for stronger action by the world's developed nations, including Australia - which has so far, refused to strengthen its emissions targets, even as it robustly protects its coal mining industry.

The announcement was made before the minister schedule travel to the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in Tuvalu, where island nations threatened by rising seas have vowed to put global warming at the top of the agenda.

"We face an existential threat that you don't face and challenges we expect your governments and people to more fully appreciate", Bainimarama said.

"Australia meets its commitments, and we will always meet our commitments", Morrison said on Tuesday when asked how he reconciled the environmental aid package with the Adani mine approval.

Mr Sopoaga, Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama and other Pacific leaders have become increasingly vocal in the lead-up to this year's PIF leaders' meeting in appealing to Australia to take a stronger stance on climate change.

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Climate change will be the central issue of the week-long meeting, along with economic development, maritime security and marine pollution.

Following an agreement at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Cairns on Friday to end the export of recyclables - with the timetable to be thrashed out by state environment leaders later this year - Scott Morrison said the deal was in part aimed at addressing the environmental concerns of Pacific nations.

The smaller Pacific states have been negotiating their own statement on climate change, with the hope of manoeuvring Australia into supporting a strong PIF statement to take to NY.

As a result, Australia's ties with the region have been strained, opening the door to the China.

China is seeking to play a greater role in the PIF as a dialogue partner, while Taiwan tries to ward off Beijing's efforts to upturn Taipei's diplomatic relations with half a dozen island countries.

Other countries from further overseas are seeking closer relations with the Pacific, with both Norway and Chile applying to become dialogue partners.


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