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Fiji’s PM refuses to let the Pacific be the ‘sacrificial canary for coal-burning countries’

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Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has made an impassioned plea for high-emitting countries to take greater action on climate change, likening Pacific nations to a canary in a coal mine.

During a speech at the Pacific Islands Forum, which Prime Minister Scott Morrison also addressed on Friday night, Mr Bainimarama said the world can not stand by idly on climate change any longer.

“Some people compare the Pacific’s story to that of the canary in the coal mine,” he said.

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“In that analogy, the canary is lowered into the mine to check for dangerous gas levels – if the canary came out dead, the rest of the miners knew not to enter.

“I refuse to let Fijians and our Pacific Island sisters and brothers be some sacrificial canary for coal-burning countries and high-emitting companies.”

Pacific island nations have long called for Australia and New Zealand, as giants of the region, to do more on climate change.

Mr Bainimarama said wealthier nations, even if they are less vulnerable to it at the moment, will feel the effects of climate change sooner or later.

“This is not just Fiji’s climate emergency, it is the world’s emergency,” he said.

“The high-emission countries simply have to face facts. We all depend on each other. Climate complacency by one will harm all others.”

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Mr Bainimarama praised the European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan and Korea for pledging to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and also noted United States President-elect Joe Biden’s intention to do the same.

While he has previously criticised Mr Morrison and his government’s climate efforts, Mr Bainimarama did not explicitly mention Australia during his speech at the forum.

“All parties must submit ambitious mid-century targets for achieving a net-zero global economy,” he said.

During his own address to the forum on Friday, Mr Morrison gave his strongest indication yet Australia will no longer rely on controversial carryover credits to reach its Paris emissions targets.

“Today, I can announce that Australia is very confident that we will now achieve our 2030 targets without the need to draw on our carryover credits,” Mr Morrison said.

Australia’s emissions are now projected to be 29 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 compared with its Paris accord target of cutting carbon emissions by 26 per cent to 28 per cent.

All Australian states and territories have now formally signed up to a target of carbon neutrality by 2050 or earlier, but the federal government has resisted pressure to follow suit.

Mr Morrison made headlines this week after Australia was not granted a speaking slot at a United Nations climate summit being hosted by the UK.

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson initially invited Mr Morrison to speak, but the offer was later retracted over diplomatic concerns Australia was not pulling its weight on climate change.

Mr Morrison shrugged off the controversy on Thursday, telling parliament Australia’s climate change policy would be set in the national interest and “not to get a speaking slot at some international summit”.

With AAP.

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