6 Mar 2019

Sopoaga ridicules citizenship swap, calls instead for more climate action

9:54 am on 6 March 2019

Tuvalu's prime minister Enele Sopoaga says a recent suggestion to swap Australian citizenship for maritime resources is an isolated view with no support, but countries still need to take drastic action to combat climate change.

Last month former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd wrote that Australia should offer citizenship to residents of small Pacific nations like Tuvalu and Kiribati in exchange for control of their seas and fisheries.

Mr Sopoaga said the idea was ridiculous and Mr Rudd should be more sensitive to Pacific nations who view the respect of culture, tradition and sovereignty as important.

"Ideas, the suggestions for some sort of imperialistic arrangement for the small states like Tuvalu, Kiribati. I thought maybe this is a dancer listening to a drum being beaten from somewhere in the mountains or whatever," he said.

Mr Sopoaga said he didn't believe Mr Rudd represented the stance of Australia or New Zealand.

Tuvalu Prime Minister, Enele Sopoaga

Tuvalu Prime Minister, Enele Sopoaga Photo: RNZ Pacific / Koro Vaka'uta

He said there were better ways to work with small island nations when it came to dealing with climate change.

The Tuvalu Prime Minister said world leaders needed to look at prevention measures more closely.

"We cannot separate adaptation from mitigation because the less the mitigation people do to keep the target of 1.5 or significantly below 2 [temperature rise], would mean more adaptation on those who are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change."

Mr Sopoaga reiterated a call that was made at last year's Pacific Islands Forum meeting that urged Australia to abandon coal power generation within 12 years, and to prohibit new coal plants or expansion of existing ones.

He said Australia should look towards more renewable energy sources rather than coal.

"This is dirty we know and it is not going to help the world. Not only Tuvalu, but the whole world," he said.

"So I would implore and impress on the leaders of Australia to reconsider their coal-mining policy.

"The 64 billion dollars they are receiving from selling their coal, they get the money but we are paying more than that in order to adapt," Mr Sopoaga said.

"That is the equation that needs to be kept in mind."

An undated file photo shows a coal-fired power station in Australia

A coal-fired power station in Australia Photo: 123RF