PM to face Ardern test over car­bon


Jacinda Ardern has chal­lenged Scott Mor­ri­son to ex­plain his govern­ment’s po­si­tion on cli­mate change to Pa­cific lead­ers as Aus­tralia fends off at­tacks over its do­mes­tic emis­sions poli­cies de­spite com­mit­ting $800 mil­lion to ad­dress global warm­ing in the re­gion.

The Prime Min­is­ter will to­day de­fend his re­gional “step-up” in a closed-door re­treat with coun­ter­parts at the Pa­cific Is­lands Fo­rum in Tu­valu, re­mind­ing them that Aus­tralia helps ed­u­cate their chil­dren, of­fers them jobs, and con­trib­utes hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars to de­liv­er­ing ser­vices to their peo­ple.

But his New Zealand coun­ter­part, who has promised a car­bon­neu­tral econ­omy by 2050, yesterday de­clared that ev­ery na­tion needed to “do its bit” to fight wors­en­ing global warm­ing, de­spite pro­vid­ing $300m less than Aus­tralia in di­rect cli­mate as­sis­tance for the Pa­cific over the next six years.

To achieve her car­bon-neu­tral pledge, Ms Ardern has ex­cluded agri­cul­ture and meth­ane, which con­trib­ute about half of New Zealand’s green­house gas emis­sions.

Also, New Zealand has com­mit­ted to cut­ting its car­bon emis­sions by 30 per cent by 2030, just two per­cent­age points more than Aus­tralia’s tar­get.

The coun­try did not sign up for bind­ing 2020 tar­gets un­der the Ky­oto 2 process af­ter nearly miss­ing its tar­get for the first round, and con­trib­uted only $3m to firstround fund­ing of the UN’s Green Cli­mate Fund com­pared with Aus­tralia’s $200m.

Af­ter fly­ing in to Tu­valu, Ms Ardern talked up her govern­ment’s sup­port for lim­it­ing warm­ing to 1.5C com­pared with prein­dus­trial lev­els — 0.5C less than that ad­vo­cated by Aus­tralia. Small is­land states also want the New Zealand tar­get in­cluded as a goal in the fo­rum lead­ers’ dec­la­ra­tion. “We will con­tinue to say that New Zealand will do its bit,” Ms Ardern said. “And we have an ex­pec­ta­tion that ev­ery­one else will as well. We have to. Ev­ery sin­gle lit­tle bit mat­ters.

“So that is why New Zealand has joined that in­ter­na­tional call. That is why we speak, I be­lieve, strongly on the in­ter­na­tional stage around th­ese is­sues. But ul­ti­mately we all have to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for our­selves … Aus­tralia has to answer to the Pa­cific. That is a mat­ter for them.”

Mr Mor­ri­son ar­rived in Tu­valu yesterday af­ter days of lob­by­ing by Aus­tralia’s ne­go­ti­at­ing team to re­move the “red line” is­sue of a tran­si­tion from coal from the fo­rum’s fi­nal com­mu­nique. He said the “fam­ily gath­er­ing” would

con­sider the fu­ture of the en­vi­ron­ment, but it would also “be talk­ing about the fu­ture of our economies”.

“We’re go­ing to talk about what is talked about at ev­ery assem­bly of ev­ery sin­gle fam­ily of the world: how are our kids go­ing to get jobs?” Mr Mor­ri­son said. “And what jobs are they go­ing to have in the fu­ture? And how we make sure that that hap­pens?

“And that’s par­tic­u­larly a big chal­lenge here in the Pa­cific, with such a large youth pop­u­la­tion, and a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion. We want to make sure they have the skills for the jobs they are go­ing to need.”

Mr Mor­ri­son also em­pha­sised Aus­tralia’s sup­port through the $1.4 billion-a-year Pa­cific aid pro­gram to help re­gional neigh­bours deal with health chal­lenges, such as fight­ing drug-re­sis­tant tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, and de­liv­er­ing med­i­cal ser­vices in re­mote ar­eas.

The Prime Min­is­ter last night had bi­lat­eral meet­ings with Tu­valu Prime Min­is­ter Enele Sopoanga, Pa­pua New Guinea Prime Min­is­ter James Marape and Cook Is­lands Prime Min­is­ter Henry Puna.

Sources said none of the lead­ers pushed Mr Mor­ri­son on cli­mate change, de­spite strong state­ments by many at the fo­rum on the need to ac­cel­er­ate emis­sions re­duc­tions to pro­tect low-ly­ing Pa­cific na­tions from ris­ing seas and wors­en­ing storms. Sev­eral lead­ers, in­clud­ing Ms Ardern, em­pha­sised the need for a con­sen­sus com­mu­nique, which could help Aus­tralia in its fight to tone down the lan­guage of ear­lier drafts.

Mr Mor­ri­son, who is push­ing hard to ce­ment re­gional re­la­tion­ships amid grow­ing strate­gic com­pe­ti­tion with China, yesterday an­nounced an ex­tra 150 tech­ni­cal and vo­ca­tional schol­ar­ships for 2019-20 through the Aus­tralia Pa­cific Train­ing Col­lege.

The col­lege, which has trained 13,000 is­landers from 14 coun­tries since 2007, pro­vides recog­nised qual­i­fi­ca­tions al­low­ing grad­u­ates to seek work in Aus­tralia un­der the Pa­cific Labour Scheme.

Ms Ardern, who like Mr Mor­ri­son is in­ten­si­fy­ing en­gage­ment with the re­gion through her own “Pa­cific pivot”, has put cli­mate change at the cen­tre of her in­ter­na­tional agenda. At the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly last year, she urged other coun­tries to put self-in­ter­est aside to help save Pa­cific na­tions from be­ing swamped.

“Na­tions like Tu­valu, the Mar­shall Is­lands, or Kiri­bati — small coun­tries who’ve con­trib­uted the least to global cli­mate change — are and will suf­fer the full force of a warm­ing planet,” she said.

“If my Pa­cific neigh­bours do not have the op­tion of opt­ing out of the ef­fects of cli­mate change, why should we be able to opt out of tak­ing ac­tion to stop it?”

Mr Mor­ri­son con­trasted Aus­tralia’s per­for­mance on cut­ting emis­sions with that of New Zealand in a speech in Fe­bru­ary, ar­gu­ing Aus­tralia was “in a very small club” that was ex­ceed­ing its car­bon emis­sions tar­gets.

By the mid­dle of next decade, Aus­tralia will have spent $800m in tax­pay­ers’ money di­rectly help­ing Pa­cific is­land na­tions — not in­clud­ing the $200m com­mit­ted to the UN Green Cli­mate Fund.

Mal­colm Turn­bull pledged $300m when prime min­is­ter for the pe­riod 2016 to 2020 and Mr Mor­ri­son this week an­nounced $500 more for Pa­cific is­land na­tions’ cli­mate ac­tion plans.

By con­trast, New Zealand spent $200m in the re­gion be­tween 2015 and 2019 and is on track to spend a fur­ther $300m by 2023.

Min­is­ter for the Pa­cific Alex Hawke has been try­ing to con­vince coun­ter­parts to tone down the lan­guage of the draft Fanu­futi Dec­la­ra­tion, ar­gu­ing against any men­tion of coal.

The Aus­tralian re­vealed yesterday that Mr Hawke held dis­cus­sions with sev­eral Pa­cific Is­land coun­tries on Mon­day, pre­sent­ing them with a ta­ble show­ing Aus­tralia had just 20 of the world’s 2459 op­er­at­ing coalmines, while 126 were in China and 33 in In­dia.

Of 359 coalmines in pre­con­struc­tion, Aus­tralia had just two, he told is­land lead­ers.


Tu­val­uan chil­dren greet Scott Mor­ri­son af­ter his ar­rival in Fu­na­futi yesterday for the Pa­cific Is­lands Fo­rum

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