Australia has pledged to fight for the prosperity of the Pacific islands under the impending threat of global warming.
Prime minister Scott Morrison was keen to talk up the government’s special relationship with its “Pacific family” at the Climate Change Conference.
This comes soon after being criticised publicly for signing a nuclear pact with the US and Britain that threatens to condemn a treaty with Pacific nations to the scrap heap.
“The Australian Way plan to get to net zero by 2050,” he told reporters at the Climate Change Conference.
“This is a significant commitment by Australia, and today it was very pleasing to be able to join with our Pacific Island family of those who were able to join us here today.
“We wish more of them were able to come, but Covid has prevented many of them from coming to Glasgow.
“But their voices will be strong, and we’ve been listening carefully to their voices over many years.
“When I was in Tuvalu a few years ago that was the last time we came together as the Pacific Islands Forum in person.
“And at that meeting, I gave the undertaking that Australia would investigate thoroughly the ability for us to make a commitment of net zero by 2050.
“And the fact that we can now do that here with them here in Glasgow means a great deal.”
Mr Morrison said expectations were that Australia’s emissions reduction by 2030 will fall by around 35 per cent and “most significantly” for its Pacific partners the government is doubling a proposal for climate finance commitments from $A1 billion to $2 billion ($US750 million to $US 1.5 billion).
About 20 per cent of the financial commitment is specifically going into Pacific Island nations by the way of direct grants that “make real projects a reality for them on the ground”.
“Now we’re not putting this through other worldwide institutions or other groups like this,” he said.
“We’re doing this direct because we want to make sure that the climate finance investments that Australians are making are being invested in our backyard amongst our Pacific Island family.”
The Australian government also announced an extra $44 million to support high integrity credits by purchasing credits from the Pacific nations in what it terms a “practical action in bringing down their emissions”.
Mr Morrison decided to remain in Glasgow for a fly-in 48-hour visit and played down questions that he was only paying lip service to the crucial summit by detailing his meetings with Pacific leaders.
“Well, I was very pleased to be here with (Fijian) prime minister Bainimarama, who is also chair of the Pacific Island Forum, and as you know, prime minister Bainimarama has been a strong champion of this cause,” he said.
“It’s a topic that he and I have been discussing for many years, and he is very pleased that Australia has now made this commitment and has supported us strongly in doing that.
“We’re also here with the prime minister of Tuvalu and the president of Palau, and we had hoped for the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea to be here. But (because of) the Covid-19 situation in Papua New Guinea, I spoke to prime minister (James) Marape the weekend before last.
“He was hoping to be here, but, of course, he has to attend to the very serious situation in Papua New Guinea. But I was able to brief him on the announcements we’ve made on our plan.”