'A nail in our coffins': Fiji clergyman tells Scott Morrison coal is killing the Pacific region

Children symbollically represent climate change greet Prime Minister Scott Morrison as he arrives for the Pacific Islands Forum in Funafuti, Tuvalu. Source: AAP

A Fijian clergyman and climate advocate has told Scott Morrison Australia’s coal industry is killing the Pacific region.

Fijian clergyman and climate advocate James Bhagwan has seized on an infamous 2017 image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison brandishing a lump of coal in parliament.

The General Secretary of the Pacific Council of Churches told Mr Morrison the coal industry is killing the Pacific region at the COP25 climate conference in Madrid.

"As much as I love him as a Christian brother, each lump of coal represents a nail in our coffins and to our crosses," Reverend Bhaghwan said.

Treasurer Scott Morrison hands Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce a lump of coal during Question Time in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
Then-treasurer Scott Morrison hands Barnaby Joyce a lump of coal during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra, Thursday, 9 February 2017.

Mr Morrison, who was in Sydney on Tuesday, in response said he respected the views of all members of the "Pacific family".

"No government has done more to engage the Pacific than our government," he said.

“We have the hard conversations with our friends and we also have the hard conversations about how we can support them in what they’re doing.”

James Bhagwan told Scott Morrison Australia’s coal industry is killing the Pacific region.
James Bhagwan told Scott Morrison Australia’s coal industry is killing the Pacific region.

The reverend had been addressing a panel discussion at the UN climate summit in Madrid. 

He used a biblical story of the good samaritan to describe the role of some actors in the region, who claim “they are part of the Pacific family but leave us lying, bleeding, dying on the side of the road.”

“So the question is, who really is our neighbour in the geopolitical context of climate change?”

Mr Morrison said he had assured Pacific leaders Australia was taking appropriate action on climate change.

“The practical achievement of Australia in this area is very clear – we meet and we beat our targets when it comes to emissions reduction.”

“We consider them carefully we don’t make them lightly and when we make them we are committed to meeting them.”

The reverend told the audience that when Pacific nations were facing obliteration “we’re hearing words like ‘come and pick our fruit.' That’s not very loving as a neighbour,” he said, referring to comments made by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.

Mr McCormack has previously apologised for the comments made earlier this year stating Pacific Island nations would survive the climate crisis in part “because many of their workers come here to pick our fruit.”

The 25th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change is expected to work through the rules for implementing the Paris agreement.

Australia has pledged to reduce emissions by 26 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 as part of the global framework.

However, government projections show more than half that target will be achieved through carryover credits from achieving goals of the Kyoto protocol.

The use of such carryover allowances is on the agenda to be debated at the COP25 with about 100 countries pushing for the practice to be banned. 

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