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Labor has lashed Australian Prime minister Scott Morrison for ignoring the climate change concerns of Pacific Island nations, saying a push to crack down on ocean plastics still leaves a “giant hole” in the Coalition’s environment policy.
Following an agreement at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Cairns on Friday to end the export of recyclables – with the timetable to be thrashed out by state environment leaders later this year – Scott Morrison said the deal was in part aimed at addressing the environmental concerns of Pacific nations.
“It’s certainly relevant to the discussion we have with Pacific Island leaders,” Morrison said ahead of his visit to Tuvalu this week for the Pacific Island Forum.
“I mean, that is, of course, separate to the other issues that we engage with them on matters of climate change and the significant investments that we make in assisting our Pacific Island family of nations able to deal with the impacts of climate change.
“[But] I think the two things do go together and I think they do demonstrate the commitment that we have to a cleaner blue in the Pacific.”
Labor’s shadow minister for the Pacific, Pat Conroy, told Guardian Australia that while the opposition welcomed more action on plastic waste, it paled in comparison to the existential threat facing island nations as a result of rising sea levels.
“While getting rid of plastics and ocean plastics is incredibly important, [Tuvalu] is a nation that will disappear unless the world, including Australia, takes action on climate change,” Conroy told Guardian Australia.
“Climate change is the elephant in the room that will not go away and nor should it.”
He said that the Coalition’s approach to climate change left a “giant hole” in environmental policy, and warned that the Pacific step-up being pursued by the Coalition would be unsuccessful without stronger action on climate policy.
He called for the government to rule out using carry-over carbon credits to meet Paris emissions targets and to “lift Australia’s climate ambitions”.
“The Pacific step-up is all about recognising Australia needs to rebuild its relationship [with Pacific nations] but that process I fear is doomed as long as this government’s approach to climate change is what it is.”
Pacific leaders have also called on Australia to abandon plans to use carry-over credits, last month warning that developed nations were not doing enough about the climate crisis, despite the grave consequences for the region.
They called for greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced immediately, pointing to the “stark warnings” in a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change setting out what would need to be done to limit global heating to 1.5C.
At last year’s Pacific Islands Forum, the Boe declaration on regional security confirmed climate change was “the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific”.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN/PACNEWS
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