Australia

'Australia has to answer to the Pacific': Ardern weighs in on climate change responsibilities

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Australia's climate policies are under the spotlight at the Pacific Islands Forum, but Scott Morrison has vowed to show up for the "hard conversations".

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has found herself caught in the middle of the Pacific island nations, who are calling for a tougher stance, and Australia, her country's greatest ally.

Speaking at the Pacific Islands Forum, she has urged for greater action on climate change and made a thinly veiled criticism of Australia's defence of its rising greenhouse gas emissions.

Jacinda Ardern.
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacina Ardern at a press conference during the Pacific Islands Forum in Funafuti, Tuvalu.
AAP

"We will continue to say that New Zealand will do its bit and we have an expectation that everyone else will as well," she told reporters.

"Australia has to answer to the Pacific, that is a matter for them."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison meets with stakeholders and participants of the NDIS during a roundtable meeting at the NDIS in Penrith, Sydney.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison meets with stakeholders and participants of the NDIS during a roundtable meeting at the NDIS in Penrith, Sydney.
AAP

Ms Ardern noted New Zealand contributes a small amount to global emissions but said that wasn't an excuse not to act.

"If we all took the perspective that if you're small it doesn't matter, we wouldn't see change."

This is in stark contrast to Energy Minister Angus Taylor, who has used Australia's small global contribution when defending rises in domestic emissions.

An aerial view of Funafuti, Tuvalu, Tuesday, August 13, 2019. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

The New Zealand leader also sided with Pacific nations by saying anything more than a 1.5-degree rise in global temperatures would have a catastrophic effect.

Negotiations on the wording of the final communique are ongoing, with smaller nations calling for a phase-out of coal, no new coal mines and for Australia to not use carryover credits to reach emissions goals.

'Hard conversations'

For his part, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison has promised to show up for the "hard conversations" at the forum, as Australia's approach to climate change came under the spotlight.

Mr Morrison arrived in Tuvalu's capital Funafuti on Wednesday afternoon and used his first public statement at the meeting to emphasise how Australia sees the Pacific as family.

He was committed to his plan to step up engagement with the region, he said.

"If you're here to step up you've got to show up. And Australia's going to show up," the prime minister said.

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

Although regional security issues are bubbling under the surface, Pacific leaders are dedicated to focusing on climate change, which is threatening their survival.

In this Nov. 5, 2015 file photo, workers build a sea wall on Majuro Atoll  in the Marshall Islands.
AP

Upon arriving in Tuvalu leaders have been confronted with local children sitting in a shallow pool of water to show how their home is on the forefront of climate change.

Mr Morrison took it in his stride, bending down to greet the children.

Minister for the Pacific Alex Hawke, who now has the prime minister by his side, earlier admitted Australia was trying to remove mention of phasing out of coal in the final communique.

He described it as a "red line issue" for Australian negotiators.

Mr Morrison has delved right into the forum, holding bilateral meetings on Wednesday with Ms Ardern as well as Vanuatu leader Charlot Salwai, Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna and Tuvalu's Enele Sopoaga.

Mr Sopoaga has not held back on his strong language against Australia, saying its aid for the region was no excuse not to reduce emissions or open new coal mines.

The Pacific leaders will spend Thursday together at a leaders' retreat.

 

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