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Australia bid to avoid Pacific climate stoush

Australia is working with Pacific countries to avoid a diplomatic stoush over climate change at next month’s Pacific Island Forum, amid a push by small countries including host nation Tuvalu to force deeper commitments from the Morrison government on the issue.

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and her Pacific counterparts sat down behind closed doors last Friday in Fiji to come up with a climate change plan that would satisfy small island nations as well as Australia.

The ministers agreed climate change would be the key issue on the Pacific Island Forum agenda, with preparations underway for a joint high-level statement to be signed by PIF leaders including Scott Morrison at the 13 – 16 August Forum.

The statement will cover priority issues including the interaction of oceans and climate, climate change adaptation and resilience, and access to climate finance.

Australia backed Pacific leaders at last year Pacific Island Forum in Nauru, signing a declaration identifying climate change as the greatest security threat facing the region.

The Boe Declaration puts pressure on Australia — as the region’s leading developed nation and a major fossil fuel exporter, to ratchet up it contributions to climate change adaptation and resilience funding for Pacific nations.

Australia’s response is likely to include funding commitments from the Morrison government’s new $2 billion (US$1.3 million) Pacific infrastructure bank.

Senator Payne told The Australian: “Today in Suva, the focus was on areas where our views are well-aligned. It was a good and positive meeting about issues vital to all of us in the region.

“The Pacific has been instrumental in driving global ambition and action on climate through advocacy based on consensus. We will work together towards a statement that leaders will consider in Tuvalu next month.”

PIF secretary-general Dame Meg Taylor said the forum was at a pivotal moment in its history.

“While we are the subject of the geopolitical manoeuvring and strategies of others, the Blue Pacific collective remains focused on charting our own destiny,” she said.

Dame Meg has previously urged Australia to use its $2 billion infrastructure facility to fund cyclone shelters, port upgrades and sea walls to protect the region from economy-wrecking storms.

Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga, whose country is just 4.5 metres above sea level at its highest point, has urged Australia to make deeper cuts to carbon emissions, and was heavily critical of the Adani mine.

“This will only go into causing a lot of serious damage to the environment, and eventually causing destruction to the people of the Pacific,” Sopoaga said of Adani.


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