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article imageAustralia’s pro-coal government seeks to water down climate goals

By Karen Graham     Aug 14, 2019 in Environment
The pro-coal government of Australia is attempting to water down a declaration on the urgent need for climate action at a meeting of Pacific leaders on the low-lying island of Tuvalu.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison arrived in Tuvalu on Wednesday for the Pacific Islands Forum — and he is already facing calls for his government to take steps to quickly reverse Australia’s rising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, including moving away from coal.
Morrison is bringing his own agenda to the Pacific Island meeting. His comments and actions so far suggest that Australia wants to water down a declaration on the urgent need for climate action by removing or “suppressing” references to the climate “crisis” as outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement.
Late on Tuesday, Climate Home News reported they had seen an annotated draft of the Pacific Islands Forum declaration that showed Australia was "trying to suppress references to the climate “crisis”, 1.5C, carbon neutrality, a ban on new coal plants and phasing out of fossil fuel subsidies."
Enele Sopoaga, Tuvalu’s prime minister, told the ABC that Australia’s commitment to spend $500 million from the existing aid budget for climate resilience and adaptation in the Pacific was a good gesture, but ultimately immoral if it was meant to stop countries talking about the need to cut emissions.
He added, “No matter how much money you put on the table, it doesn’t give you the excuse to not to do the right thing that is cutting down your emissions, including not opening your coal mines.”
Pacific islands have criticised Australia for not doing enough to rein in its reliance on coal
Pacific islands have criticised Australia for not doing enough to rein in its reliance on coal
WILLIAM WEST, AFP/File
Another sign of Australia's true intentions was the government's sending junior minister Alex Hawke — who is one of the many climate skeptics in the Coalition’s ranks — to do the preparatory work ahead of the forum. Hawke has a long history of quoting climate science deniers.
Hawke has no problem in describing the Clean Energy Finance Corp as “Orwellian” and in one speech he stated: “To say climate change is human-induced is to overblow and overstate our role in the scheme of the universe.”
This subterfuge boils down to Australia balking at making a commitment to support a plan for achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, ahead of the UN climate action summit on September 23, in New York. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has thrown his weight behind the issue, demanding that every country that has signed the Paris Climate Agreement make a commitment.
Australia wants to change the commitment to say that countries need to “formulate and communicate long term (greenhouse gas) emissions development strategies by 2020.”
Australia also wants to change the wording in the draft statement that talks about new coal mines and phasing out coal production. Australia suggested deleting the paragraph, asserting that the issue is “not a shared forum priority”.
More about Australia, slimate targets, Morrison, pacific islands, procoal government
 
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