Australia

'Australia has to answer to Pacific': Morrison faces tough climate questions

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Scott Morrison will join Pacific leaders for a closed day of talks on Thursday in Tuvalu, spending the day on a leaders' retreat as pressure mounts on climate.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is preparing for an intimate day of discussions with Pacific leaders in Tuvalu as he faces ongoing pressure to increase Australia's climate commitments.

Leaders will take part in a leaders' retreat on Thursday in the nation's capital of Funafuti, as part of the Pacific Islands Forum.

Australian PM Scott Morrison will join Pacific leaders for a closed day of talks on Thursday in Tuvalu.
Australian PM Scott Morrison will join Pacific leaders for a closed day of talks on Thursday in Tuvalu.
AAP

Australia is under pressure to do more on climate change, with its domestic policies on coal and reducing emissions in the firing line.

But Mr Morrison isn't willing to budge, with Australian negotiators trying to remove mention of phasing out of coal in the forum's final communique.

The Pacific nations also want global temperature rises to be limited to 1.5 degrees, fearing catastrophic consequences of a greater rise.

A United Nations climate report last year explained the different outcomes the world would face if the temperature rise is limited to 1.5 rather than two degrees.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meets with Mr Morrison. She's urged Australia to do more on climate change.
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meets with Mr Morrison. She's urged Australia to do more on climate change.
AAP

But Australia's then-environment minister Melissa Price questioned the findings, saying scientists were drawing a "long bow" for suggesting coal should be phased out.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says "Australia has to answer to the Pacific" on climate change.

She tried to dispel the suggestion New Zealand is playing the role of mediator at the negotiations, despite siding with the Pacific on calls for stronger climate action from all countries.

Although New Zealand and Australia have typically been in lockstep at such global forums, the Kiwis have upped their renewable energy and emissions reduction targets.

She also refused to comment on wording of the communique while negotiations continue, not saying if New Zealand would support Australia in stripping away mention of coal.

The final communique will be drawn from the Nadi Bay Declaration, which was agreed to by the smaller island nations ahead of the leaders' meeting.

It makes specific calls to rule out new coal mines and to phase out the resource, with Fiji's leader Frank Bainimarama telling the islands to not let Australia water down language.

Scott Morrison attends a Traditional Ceremony of Welcome with the Prime Minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama.
Scott Morrison attends a Traditional Ceremony of Welcome with the Prime Minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama.
AAP

After arriving on Wednesday Mr Morrison held bilateral talks with leaders from Tuvalu, New Zealand, Cook Islands and Papua New Guinea.

Mr Morrison and Ms Ardern agree that more needs to be done on plastics and oceans in the Pacific.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill could lend weight to Australia's desire to remove mention of coal in the communique, indicating an interest in ensuring it doesn't overreach.

"Its understood climate change was only mentioned in the bilaterals in the context of the communique."

Mr Morrison has stressed the Pacific is Australia's family, indicating his desire to be frank on divisive issues while sharpening his focus on the region.

"We're not just going to show up here, we're going to show up for the hard conversations, the bad conversations, family conversations."

He also made mention of Australia's assistance with training Pacific workers and on health care in the region.

With AAP...

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