Pacific nations need carbon cuts from Australia, not just cash: Fiji president

Talking points

  • Fiji PM Bainmarama tells PM Scott Morrison coal has no place in this century.
  • Morrison says Australia will increase climate aid to developing by $500 million.
  • Australia won’t formally increase its 2030 targets from 26-28% reduction targets.
  • Fiji’s PM gives Morrison copy of Fiji’s climate change act to serve as model for Australia.

Glasgow: Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has told Scott Morrison that coal has no place in this century’s economy during a meeting at climate talks in Glasgow, and that Pacific island nations expect more from the Australian government on climate.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Prime Minister of Fiji Frank Bainimarama after a roundtable meeting with Pacific leaders at COP26 in Glasgow.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

Morrison announced at the COP26 talks in Glasgow that Australia would commit an additional $500 million to developing nations in the region to tackle climate change, on top of the $1.5 billion announced in December 2020.

“This doubles our previous five-year commitment of $1 billion between 2015 and 2020,” said Mr Morrison.

But in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Bainimarama said Pacific island nations needed to see a plan on how Australia would not only reduce its emission to net zero by 2050, but how it would halve its emissions by 2030.

Australia has declined to formally increase its 2030 target from the 26-28 per cent reduction it agreed to in 2015.

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama arrives for day two of COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. Credit:Getty

“It is no secret that we expect more from Australia on climate,” said Bainimarama, who had breakfast with Morrison and met him again in a meeting with Pacific island leaders later in the morning at the Glasgow talks.

“We’ve informed them before and we will continue to inform them.”

“Opening coal plants shuts the door on the future of low-lying Pacific nations whether you burn it yourself or you export it to others, coal has no place in this century.” Environment Minister Sussan Ley approved three coal mines in the lead up to the talks.

Bainmarama said when he raised the issue with Morrison the Australian Prime Minister referred him to Australia’s climate plan, which was released last week and emphasises the role of technological innovation to reduce emissions.

“Whether that will work I really don’t know,” said Bainimarama. “And nobody knows. Everybody says his plan should have been out eight years ago.”

During the meeting he provided Morrison with a copy of Fiji’s climate change act, passed in September, which compels all arms of government and the private sector to meet emissions reductions targets.

“I hope it can serve as a guide to Australia,” he said.

Morrison told reporters that the money would not be provided to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund, which signatories to the Paris Agreement committed to supporting.

“Now, we’re not putting this through our worldwide institutions or other groups like this,” he said. “We’re doing this because we want to make sure that the climate finance investments that Australians make are being invested in our backyard, amongst our Pacific Island family, and amongst our southeast Asian partners and friends.

“We want to cut out all the red tape and get rid of all the bureaucracy and make sure that this funding is going directly within our region,” he said.

Wealthy nations were supposed to help developing countries secure $US100 billion ($132 billion) a year by 2020 via the Green Climate Fund to help them build green economies faster. The figure has never been met and the failure is seen as one of the greatest threats to a successful outcome at the talks.

Morrison said Australia’s investment would include an increase for the Pacific from $500 million to at least $700 million.

“Australia’s assistance will support Pacific and Southeast Asian countries to enhance climate resilience for future infrastructure investments, including roads, schools and bridges,” he said.

Maina Talia, a Tuvalu delegate at the conference and secretary of the Tuvalu Climate Action Network, said it would be more appropriate for Australia to contribute to the Green Climate Fund, as it committed to in Paris.

If Australia had discretion over the spending it was not certain that it would go to appropriate climate programs, he said.

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