Pacific leaders condemn Australia’s climate target as ‘one of the weakest’

Pacific Island leaders have written an open letter urging Australia’s conservative Liberal-National Prime Minister Scott Morrison to take stronger action on climate change, warning Australia is failing to take enough leadership initiative in addressing the global challenge. 

A total of 15 Pacific leaders, including former prime ministers and presidents, condemned Australia’s emissions reduction target as “one of the weakest amongst wealthy nations”. 

They called on Australia to increase the ambition of its commitments to responding to climate change ahead of the international United Nations Climate Ambitions Summit on December 12.

Former President of Kiribati Anote Tong said that Australia must review its commitment to tackling climate change, or risk failing to take leadership against the “existential threat”.

“What we’ve always been hoping to happen is to have Australia take greater leadership from our part of the world to try and influence the global agenda on climate change,” he told said.

“Right now, Australia is lagging behind.”

In their letter, the Pacific leaders recommended Australia follow international allies in committing to a net-zero emissions target by 2050 and develop a long-term strategy to lower greenhouse emissions by 2021.

They also want the Australian government to rule out using “carry-over credits” to achieve existing climate targets, casting doubt over the legal and moral justification for embracing the method.

They warned that homelands and cultures in the Pacific are facing “certain devastation” from climate change, and that the challenge remains the region’s greatest security threat.

“Pacific Island nations have long been leaders in driving global progress to combat climate change,” the letter reads.

“However, Australia’s current Paris Agreement emission reduction target remains one of the weakest amongst wealthy nations.”

The United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, South Korea and the incoming administration of United States president-elect Joe Biden have committed to a net-zero emissions target by 2050.

The Australian government has resisted adopting the goal, with Mr Morrison instead saying he wants to reach the target as quickly as possible through a technology-driven approach.

A spokesperson for the Australian government said it is a steadfast partner in building climate change and disaster resilience in the Pacific.

“Australia is committed to reaching net zero emissions as soon as possible, and focused on driving down the costs of key technologies to achieve this global goal,” the spokesperson said.

“We are committed to the goals of the Paris Agreement. Our targets are meaningful and ambitious and we implement action to achieve them.”

Pacific Island nations have long urged Australia to take a stronger leadership in combating the global challenge, fearing they are most at risk of its potential devastating impacts.

However, at last year’s Pacific Islands forum, Fiji’s prime minister Frank Bainimarama accused Australia of lacking commitment to the cause.

This included reports Mr Morrison had resisted including references to coal and reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 in the final communique of the forum.

The federal government’s current goal is for a 26 to 28 per cent reduction on 2005 emissions levels by 2030.

It has reduced the nation’s total emissions by 16.6 per cent since 2005, according to government data.

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