Australia yesterday announced a A$500 million (US$338.4 million) climate change package for Pacific countries, but received a lukewarm response from low-lying island nations demanding urgent action from their powerful neighbor to curb its carbon emissions.
The funding, drawn from Australia’s international aid budget, would help Pacific nations invest in renewable energy and climate change resilience, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
The climate-skeptic leader made the announcement before traveling to the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu, where island nations threatened by rising seas have vowed to put global warming at the top of the agenda.
Smaller members of the group of 18 nations have been sharply critical of Australia’s climate policies ahead of this year’s summit amid a diplomatic push from Canberra to counter China’s growing power in the region.
Representatives from Tuvalu, Palau and Vanuatu have criticized Australia for not doing enough.
There has also been disquiet in the Pacific that Australia approved the giant Adani coal mine in Queensland.
Tuvaluan Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga did not directly address islanders concerns.
“No matter how much money you put on the table it doesn’t give you the excuse not to do the right thing,” he told reporters in Funafuti. “[The right thing] is cutting down your emissions, including not opening your coal mines. That is the thing we want to see.”
Morrison has defended Australia’s climate record, saying that the nation would meet its 2030 emissions reduction target set under the Paris Agreement.
“The A$500 million we’re investing for the Pacific’s renewable energy and its climate change and disaster resilience builds on the A$300 million for 2016 to 2020,” he said in a statement. “This highlights our commitment to not just meeting our emissions reduction obligations at home, but supporting our neighbors and friends.”
“This A$500 million accounting trick will do nothing to address the cause of the climate crisis that threatens the viability of the entire Pacific,” Greenpeace Australia’s head of Pacific Joseph Moeono-Kolio said in a statement.
Australia’s opposition Labor Party called Morrison’s package “cynical window dressing.”
“It will not repair Australia’s reputation with our Pacific neighbors,” Labor climate change spokesman Pat Conroy said.
The forum officially opened late yesterday and continues until tomorrow, with Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern due to arrive today.
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