Australia has awarded a $340 million climate change package to Pacific island countries. However, the grant, announced on Tuesday, August 13th, failed to elicit an enthusiastic welcome from low-lying nations that have been calling on Canberra to reduce its carbon emissions, AFP reported.
“No matter how much money you put on the table it doesn't give you the excuse not to do the right thing" and that the "(the right thing) is cutting down your emissions, including not opening your coal mines. That is the thing we want to see," Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga told reporters in the capital Funafuti.
The grant, which comes from Australia's international aid budget, should help Pacific island nations in developing renewable energy sources to combat climate change, Aussie Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
Morrison affirmed Australia is on the right track to achieve the 2030 Paris Agreement emissions target.
"The $500 million we're investing for the Pacific's renewable energy and its climate change and disaster resilience builds on the $300 million for 2016-2020," he said in a statement.
"This highlights our commitment to not just meeting our emissions reduction obligations at home but supporting our neighbours and friends."
Greenpeace described the package as a red herring and "a slap in the face to regional leaders.”
"This Aus$500 million accounting trick will do nothing to address the cause of the climate crisis that threatens the viability of the entire Pacific," Greenpeace's Pacific head Joseph Moeono-Kolio said in a statement.
Oxfam Australia welcomed it but said, "it is not a substitute for action at home to tackle the causes of this crisis –- the burning of fossil fuels."
Australia's opposition Labour Party called the package "cynical window dressing" before the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) summit.
"It will not repair Australia’s reputation with our Pacific neighbours that has been damaged by this government’s reactionary stance on climate change," Labour climate change spokesman Pat Conroy said.
Australia is trying to reimpose its power over the Pacific, but some regional states said without an effective climate change strategy Australia’s endeavour will fail.
Its climate policies have been extremely castigated by smaller members of the 18-nation Pacific Islands Forum, including Tuvalu, Palau, and Vanuatu, as Canberra tries to off-balance China’s rising regional sway.
Morrison, who is not a firm believer in climate change, has approved the giant Adani coal mine in Queensland state, creating worries among Pacific island nations.
These low-lying countries, challenged by increasing sea levels, promised to prioritise global warming on the forum’s agenda.
The PIF summit officially opens late on Tuesday and continues until Thursday, with Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern due to arrive on Wednesday.