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Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has demanded Australia do more to combat climate change during the Global Smart Energy Summit, highlighting that the survival of small developing nations depends on the leadership of high-carbon emitters.

At Wednesday’s virtual summit, Bainimarama said that despite Fiji accounting for less than 1% of global carbon emissions, the Pacific country is among the most vulnerable in the world to coastal erosion, rising sea levels and intense climate-related weather events. 

During a passionate speech, Bainimarama called on Australia and other countries like China, India and the United States to adopt clearer zero-emissions targets.

By doing so, Bainimarama said it would be easier for the world to keep the countries accountable. 

"Let me be clear, when we talk about zero emissions targets, any later than Jan. 1, 2050, will be too late to achieve net-zero emissions,” he said, according to a video obtained by SBS News. “These aren't aimless targets — they are life or death deadlines backed by science.”

Bainimarama singled out New Zealand as a regional leader for its commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2030.

"Nations like our neighbours in New Zealand get it,” he said, before nudging Australia to announce a similar target. “I ask Australia, and all highly developed nations of the world, what is your true competitive advantage?”

Bainimarama’s comments come just weeks after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to commit to the 2050 net-zero emissions goal — despite the target already being embraced by all Australian states and territories, business groups, the opposition government and the National Farmers Federation. 

Instead, Australia announced a new energy roadmap that prioritises technologies like “clean” hydrogen, carbon capture and storage and “low carbon" steel and aluminium. The roadmap is expected to drive around 130,000 jobs and cut 250 million tonnes of emissions annually over the next two decades.

"I know people get very focused on the politics of these commitments, but what I'm focused on is on the technology that delivers lower emissions, lower costs and more jobs," Morrison told ABC's Insiders. "I'm interested in doing the things that make that happen."

Experts say Australia’s new approach conflicts with the Paris agreement — of which Australia is a signatory.

Pacific island nations have long criticised Australia’s emission reduction strategies. 

Criticisms came to head last August after Australia watered-down language on cutting carbon emissions and the use of coal in the final communique from the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu.

"We should not accept anything less than concrete commitments to curb greenhouse gas emissions in line with the most ambitious aspirations of the Paris agreement,” Bainimarama said at the time.


Defend the Planet

Fiji Calls on Australia to Do Significantly More to Reduce Carbon Emissions

By Madeleine Keck