New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Wednesday backed Pacific leaders’ calls for urgent action on climate change, ramping up pressure on Australia to overhaul its stance on global warming.
Australia’s Scott Morrison arrived at a meeting of Pacific island leaders in Tuvalu with Canberra’s regional leadership in question amid intense scrutiny of his government’s climate change policies.
Wealthy Australia has long dominated the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), an 18-member grouping consisting mainly of small atoll nations dotted around the vast Pacific ocean.
But its role is in doubt after leaders of the low-lying nations questioned in recent days whether Australia’s climate-sceptic leader is committed to curbing a problem they see as a fundamental threat to their survival.
Ardern joined the chorus after touching down at the PIF meeting, further isolating coal-producing Australia.
“New Zealand will do its bit and we have an expectation that everyone else will as well… Australia has to answer to the Pacific, that’s a matter for them,” she told reporters.
Greenpeace campaigner Joseph Moeono-Kolio said Morrison’s government appeared intent on watering down the summit’s communique, due to be issued Thursday, which is set to demand urgent action on climate change.
“Australia is poised to become the pariah of the Pacific,” he said.
Moeono-Kolio said among the measures deemed unacceptable by Australians were calls to ban new coal mines and set a timeframe for phasing out use of the carbon-emitting fuel.