9 Dec 2019

Sopoaga raises doubts about Australia's Pacific commitment

1:43 pm on 9 December 2019

Former Tuvalu Prime Minister and climate champion Enele Sopoaga has asked whether countries that refuse to reduce fossil fuel use are really part of the Pacific.

Mr Sopoaga made the remarks during the UN's annual climate change conference, COP25 in Madrid, where he warned of the dangers of 'climate denialism.'

Enele Sopoaga

Enele Sopoaga Photo: RNZ Pacific/ Jamie Tahana

In response to a question on the role of Australia in the climate crisis, Mr Sopoaga referred to the Pacific Islands Forum meeting he chaired as Tuvalu prime minister in August, where all members including Australia, signed a communique that acknowledged climate change as "the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific".

"That is a powerful message that came out of the leaders' communique," he said, adding that the key takeaway was to "transition away from fossil fuels".

"Everybody, including Prime Minister Morrison of Australia signed on to that language… and we need to make sure we operationalise that language… and I hope the Australian negotiators here take heed of and honour that commitment," he said.

Mr Sopoaga also said "the IPCC is warning us, no urgent action and Tuvalu goes underwater in 30 years."

Referring to coal-producing nations such as Australia, he said "they must stop coal mining immediately as a matter of urgency".

*Jamie Tahana travelled to the COP25 in Madrid, Spain with the assistance of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).