Australian coal use an 'existential threat' to islands: Fiji PM

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison addresses the media at Parliament House in Canberra 13 February 2019

Foreign Office Minister for Asia and the Pacific, Heather Wheeler, has chosen Fiji and the Pacific Island Forum, in Tuvalu, for her first official overseas visit since being appointed in the role.

Australia will donate A$500 million ($339 million) to Pacific Islands for renewable energy projects and to help its neighbours prepare for the impact of climate change, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday.

The PIF leaders meeting is expected to issue a consensus statement on climate change that will then form part of the United Nation's Climate Action Forum in NY next month.

Climate change will be the central issue of the week-long meeting, along with economic development, maritime security and marine pollution.

Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama used his opening remarks to stress the importance of halting a global temperature rise of 1.5 degrees, fearing what a higher increase could do.

Pacific Island leaders have also criticised Australia for counting emission reductions achieved prior to its 2016 pledge to reduce emissions by between 26%-28% from 2005 levels by 2030.

Declaring a climate emergency, Pacific Island leaders have called for stronger action by developed countries, including Australia which has so far refused to strengthen emission targets in order to protect its coal mining industry.

"As well as getting our own house in order, we have a responsibility to support the resilience, resolve and leadership of those at the front lines of climate destruction - starting with a US$30 million contribution to the Green Climate Fund in the October replenishment round", Le Mesurier said.

"It is not for us to be prescriptive about how you run your affairs".

"New Zealand must create a Zero Carbon Act that has a 2040 target for net zero emissions, covering all greenhouse gases; phase-in the full pricing of agricultural emissions much faster; and accelerate reforms of the Resource Management Act in order to be taking the climate crisis seriously".

Earlier on Tuesday, the leaders of the Pacific's nine smallest countries met in Funafuti, calling for an immediate end to coal, divestment from fossil fuels, and a rapid step-up in action on climate change.

But host Tuvalu will be ensuring their visitors can't avoid their biggest challenge: climate change and its threat to the nation's fragile reefs.

"The approach by Australia strains the relationship with its Pacific neighbours, but this is nothing new".

"Pacific island countries are tackling the grave injustice they face head on - having contributed the least to climate change, these nations are making bold national commitments, and playing a major role in worldwide negotiations".

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