Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek, today ramped up the political heat on Tony Abbott by warning his stance on climate change had angered smaller island states and was now threatening the ongoing viability of the forum.
President of the low lying island nation of Kiribati, Anote Tong, Tuesday canvassed the prospect of Australia and New Zealand leaving the 16 member regional grouping if they did not help combat dangerous climate change.
He demanded that both nations take action to limit global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees and warned that an attempt to compromise was unacceptable.
But O’Neill, the forum chair, this morning dismissed the prospect of a splintering within the forum.
Attending an official breakfast with Pacific island leaders,O’Neill said he would have a “healthy and constructive” discussion with the Australian Prime Minister when he arrived later today.
“I think they (Australia) are a very strong member of the Pacific Forum and we look forward to their continued participation over many many years,” he said.
“I don’t believe one issue is going to cause a disruption in the way they participate in meetings.”
O’Neill said he would discuss a range of ongoing bilateral issues with Abbott including the resettlement of asylum seekers being held on Manus Island and changes to the bilateral aid program.
While he said Tong’s view should be respected,O’Neill said Abbott had a clear position on climate change which was well understood and described him as a “capable” man.
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key also brushed aside the 1.5 degree target this morning, saying Australia and New Zealand were already taking appropriate action to reduce carbon emissions.
“Both countries are looking to make an adjustment of around about, in Australia’s case I think it’s 26-28 per cent and in New Zealand it’s 30 per cent.... And we believe that that’s appropriate.”
“I think we have to be realistic about what can be achieved without scientific solutions,” he said.
Key said he hoped there would be a consensus at the end of the forum on climate change but said further discussions could take place before the UN Paris climate change conference in December.
Plibersek and her parliamentary secretary Matt Thistlethwaite today seized on the frustration of the lower lying island states on climate change to attack Abbott.
They warned Abbott would be “confronted” by Pacific island leaders and said he could not “ignore their cries for help.”
“The Abbott Government’s failure to take real action on climate change could derail the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) as several small island states threaten to walk out in protest,” they said in a statement.
“Natural disasters and coup d’état couldn’t derail the PIF but Tony Abbott in one conference has managed to threaten the forum’s very existence.”
“Mr Abbott needs to listen to the leaders of the nations who are most affected by climate change. For these nations, inaction means the end of their existence.”.
SOURCE: THE AUSTRALIAN