12 Aug 2019

Fiji challenges Australia on climate change and coal

3:15 pm on 12 August 2019

Fiji's prime minister has challenged Australia on its climate change policies and commitment to coal.

Frank Bainimarama

Frank Bainimarama Photo: RNZ / Koroi Hawkins

Speaking at a climate conference in Tuvalu ahead of this week's Pacific Islands Forum, Frank Bainimarama looked towards Australia's Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Alex Hawke.

He told him he understood the region's largest economy was built on coal exports that had s given it the means to support the region.

However, he urged it to change its policies to offset its emissions.

"Please do more and we would all welcome benefiting from that effort," Mr Bainimarama said.

"Put simply, the case for coal as an energy source cannot continue to be made if every nation is to meet the net-zero emission target by 2050 that has been set by the UN Secretary-General and every other responsible leader of the climate struggle."

Mr Bainmarama also addressed his suspension from, and subsequent refusal to attend, the Pacific Islands Forum as "water under the bridge."

The prime minister is attending his first Forum summit since 2007.

Fiji was suspended in 2009 in the wake of the 2006 coup and the subsequent abrogation of the constitution.

After it was returned post-2014 election, Mr Bainimarama refused to go, saying he wouldn't attend until Australia and New Zealand's outsized influence was addressed.

During today's speech he made mention of that approach.

"My views until now on their place at this forum are well known," he said.

"But we are in a new era in which both countries are attempting to re-engage with us in a more respectful and inclusive way and I, for one, warmly welcome that.

"We are bound by geography, we are bound by history and shared values and nothing must ultimately be able to come between us."