Ahead of the Pacific Islands Forum, a group of esteemed leaders in the Pacific urged Australia to show support for the region by abandoning plans for new fossil fuel generation.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will travel to Fiji next week for the annual PIF leaders’ meeting, which will bring together 18 heads of government from the blue continent.
The predominant and existential problem is climate change, given the human, environmental and economic risk of a catastrophe without rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from the developed world.
Pacific leaders are clearly disappointed with Australia’s efforts to fight climate change.
Last December, Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said Australia had a “dangerous addiction to coal” before welcoming the election of Mr Albanian in the hopes that he would “put climate first”.
Past leaders are also putting their weight behind the regional efforts.
Former leaders of Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Palau have co-signed a statement asking countries to improve their efforts to reduce emissions.
“The latest assessments are clear: global emissions must be halved this decade. There is no room for new coal and gas,” the statement said.
Mr Albanese has set Australia’s emissions reduction target at 43 percent of 2005 levels by 2030, less than the amount the United Nations believes must be done globally to mitigate catastrophic climate change.
The Pacific seniors — including Enele Sopoaga of Tuvalu, the 2019 PIF chair, Anote Tong of Kiribati, Hilda Heine of Marshall Islands and Palau’s Tommy Remengesau — have approved a new report from the Australian Climate Council, released Friday. .
Lead author Wesley Morgan said failing to deliver on climate promises in line with what would limit global warming to 1.5°C would hurt Australia’s position in the Pacific.
“Australia’s inability to act on climate change has undermined our national security – nowhere is that more evident than in the Pacific,” he said.
“The Pacific Islands Forum is a pivotal moment for the Albanian government to restore relations with strategically important countries in the Pacific and prove itself as a climate leader.
“Australia will need to show Pacific countries that it is serious about climate action, both by reducing emissions at home and by working with the rest of the Pacific to reduce global emissions this decade.”
The report makes clear the disastrous efforts for the Pacific without a course correction on emissions.
With current warming trends, the blue continent will endure more destructive cyclones, coastal flooding, the loss of 99 percent of coral reefs, all of which will hit food and water security and precarious economies.
“The latest science strongly confirms what the islands and communities of the Pacific have long known: that climate change is the biggest threat to their future,” writes Dr. Morgan.
The elders of the Pacific put it more bluntly, saying that low-lying states are at risk of being “destroyed.”
“All Pacific countries will face severe and irreversible impacts that will wreak havoc on island communities,” they write.
Albanian and New Zealander Jacinda Ardern, who will also attend the July 12-14 PIF leaders’ summit, is expected to come under significant pressure to make new climate commitments in Fiji.