The Pacific Islands Forum ended on Thursday night in Funafuti, the capital of island nation Tuvalu, without a region-wide consensus to intensify the fight against climate change owing to Australia's stand on coal use.
The leaders of the 18 Pacific nations failed to reach an agreement on the Tuvalu Declaration, drawn up by the smaller countries of the region, and instead issued early Friday a separate Kainaki II Declaration with watered-down commitments to the global crisis.
The PIF chair, Tuvalu's Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga, blamed Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison directly for the changes in the declaration.
During the discussion, Sopoaga told Morrison: "You are concerned about saving your economy in Australia … I am concerned about saving my people in Tuvalu," from the effects of climate change, Australian public broadcaster ABC reported.
The original communique called for strong measures to limit the rise in global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, contributions to the United Nations Green Climate Fund and an "immediate" global ban on the construction of new coal-fired power plants and coal mines, as well as a rapid phase-out of coal.
However, the Kainaki II Declaration calls for “urgent action” to limit the temperature increase below 1.5 degrees, continued efforts towards climate finance and “replenishment” of the UN Green Climate Fund, and "invites" countries to "reflect" on fossil fuel subsidies and the transition to green energy sources.
"I understand the deep sensitivities … It's not just about Australia's economy. It's about how Australia can continue to provide the support that we do across the Pacific region," Morrison said on Friday.
In a tweet after the event, Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said “we came together in a nation that risks disappearing to the seas, but unfortunately, we settled for the status quo in our communique.”
"Watered-down climate language has real consequences - like water-logged homes, schools, communities, and ancestral burial grounds," he added.
The director of Australian environmental organization Edmund Rice Centre, Phil Glendenning, said Friday in a statement that "Australia’s refusal to reconsider its position on coal-mining and its resistance to increasing its current Paris Agreement target is untenable if it wants to retain a respected profile in the Pacific."
The Pacific Islands Forum is a regional organization with 18 members, most of them island nations at the risk of natural disasters and in danger of disappearing due to rising water levels that damage crops and pollute aquifers.
The members include Australia - whose economy is dependent on coal, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. EFE