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Australia offers $500 million to fight climate change in Pacific

Posted Aug 12, 2019 by Karen Graham
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is seeking to head off criticisms of Australia's climate change policies by offering $500 million to Pacific Islands for renewable energy projects and to help its neighbors prepare for the impact of climate change,
Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga (right) in 2017.
Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga (right) in 2017.
Presidential palace (CC BY 2.0)
The announcement today comes ahead of Morrison's arrival at a meeting of Pacific leaders in Tuvalu on Wednesday. The low-lying islands of the Pacific are seen as the front line of global climate change, already battling rising sea levels and other climate-related crises.
“The Pacific is our home, which we share as a family of nations. We’re here to work with our Pacific partners to confront the potential challenges they face in the years ahead,” Morrison said in a statement before a trip to the region.
The funding package will be re-directed from existing programs and is in no way considered additional support for the region. The A$500 million is to be handed out over a period of five years, beginning in 2020 to help the Pacific island nations invest in renewable energy and "climate and disaster resilience."
The new funding will build on the A$300 million given by the government for that purpose in 2016-2020, reports The Guardian.
The Pacific island of Fiji is already feeling the impact of climate change through wild storms such ...
The Pacific island of Fiji is already feeling the impact of climate change through wild storms such as Cyclone Winston, which killed 44 people in 2016 and wiped out a third of the economy
STEVEN SAPHORE, AFP/File
A little bit of politics involved
Pacific Islanders have declared a climate emergency, calling for stronger action by the world's developed nations, including Australia - which has so far, refused to strengthen its emissions targets, even as it robustly protects its coal mining industry.
On Monday, Tuvalu hosted a one-day climate conference - with Fijian prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, a global leader in the fight against climate change, issuing a direct appeal to Australia to move away from coal-powered energy. "I appeal to Australia to do everything possible to achieve a rapid transition from coal to energy sources that do not contribute to climate change," he said.
"We face an existential threat that you don't face and challenges we expect your governments and people to more fully appreciate," he added. "I certainly look forward to seeing for myself, the progress Australia has made in managing the challenges of transforming its energy sector and integrating renewable energy when I make my first official visit there next month."
Pacific Island leaders have also criticized Australia for counting emission reduction figures prior to its 2016 pledge to reduce emissions by between 26 - 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. The dispute has led to strained relations between Australia and other nations in the region, opening the door for China, reports Reuters.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison won a surprise re-election victory after campaign promises ...
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison won a surprise re-election victory after campaign promises that mirrored US President Donald Trump on immigration and climate
Saeed KHAN, AFP/File
China's willingness to provide economic funding to other nations has already scored big for Beijing - and with showing leadership in the battle against climate change, China has won allies and influence in a region where over one-third of the nations recognize Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a wayward province with no right to state-to-state ties.
Only recently have Australia and its Western Allies made attempts to counter China's economic aid to Pacific Islanders, a case of closing the barn door after the horses have run out.
Speaking to Guardian Australia ahead of the forum, Enele Sopoaga, the prime minister of Tuvalu said their positive relationship with Australia could change if the future of his people was not taken seriously. “I hope we can be more understanding that the people of Tuvalu and small island countries are already submerged, are already going underwater,” Sopoaga said.