Pacific Island Forum: Australia urged to do more in climate change battle

Australia is being urged to do more to tackle climate change with Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama revealing he has urged Anthony Albanese to “go further” for the Pacific region.
The push comes as leaders head into their final day of the Pacific Island Forum, where they will have frank, closed-door discussions over climate change and regional security issues.
Australia’s Prime Minister has also revealed he is “very confident” there would not be any Chinese bases in the Solomon Islands following his first meeting with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare.
Mr Bainimarama, who met with Mr Albanese on Wednesday afternoon, acknowledged that Australia’s new climate pledge was a “step up that Fiji has long sought”.
But he said out of the duty he owes “every young person in the Pacific” he called on Mr Albanese to do more.
“I have urged (Mr Albanese) to go further for our family’s shared future by aligning Australia’s commitment to the 1.5C target,” Mr Baininmarama wrote on Twitter.
The Albanese government went into the forum spruiking its stronger emissions reduction target and raft of climate policies, in a bid to reset the country’s relationship with the Pacific.
Asked if there will be any Chinese bases on the Solomons following a milestone meeting with Mr Sogavare, Mr Albanese said: “No.”
“I’m very confident that won’t happen,” he told Today. “I had a very constructive meeting with Prime Minister Sogavare yesterday.
“The No.1 issue for them is, of course, climate change, because it’s a threat to their very existence and my government’s changed position on that has been very much welcomed by them.” Mr Albanese added that the government had to respect the sovereign wishes of the nation, but ensure doing so is within Australia’s interests.
“They’re a sovereign nation. We’ve got to respect that,” he said. “But what we need to do as well is make clear what Australia’s interests are and obviously the interests of Australia would not be served by having a military base so close to where Australia is.” Mr Albanese also wielded some “NRL diplomacy” to win-over other Pacific Island leaders, watching the State of Origin with a group of them on Wednesday night. “I was watching it with the Prime Minister PNG, the Prime Minister of Samoa and other leaders,” he said. “Some of them who hadn’t seen Rugby League before in any scale, (were) shocked at the brutality of the game. But it was fantastic.”
And the game was top of the agenda at a meeting between Mr Albanese and Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape on Thursday morning.
Mr Albanese said PNG, as well as the Pacific, should eventually have an NRL team.
Albo mends fences with the Solomons
Anthony Albanese has embraced his country’s differences with Solomon Islands, sharing a hug with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare in a milestone meeting following the island’s signing of a controversial security pact with Beijing.
The Prime Minister made his fourth trip overseas on Wednesday, donning a grey bula wear shirt as the pair met for the first time on the sidelines of the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji.
Leaders from across 16 nations will gather on Thursday for the final and most important day of the forum, the leaders’ retreat, where climate change and regional security will be top of the agenda at their closed-door meetings.
They will also launch their 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific, a long-term approach to working together as a ­region, which will be contingent on enhanced co-operation and strong leadership.
Mr Albanese will also meet with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape.
Mr Sogavare sought to diffuse any tension between Australia and the Solomons – after he signed a controversial security pact with Beijing in April – going into the highly anticipated talks smiling and telling Mr Albanese “I need a hug”.
But Mr Albanese, who has voiced Australia’s concerns about any permanent Chinese presence in the Solomons, had a message for his counterpart. “It is a historically important relationship and will be even ­better,” he said.
“There is much more we can do to co-operate and to develop those relationships of trust and mutual understanding for our joint benefits.”
The softly spoken Mr ­Sogavare responded, saying: “We are family. Yes, there are issues and that makes family strong, and nothing replaces sitting together and talking.”
Before the talks, Beijing mouthpiece the Global Times took aim at Australia, accusing it of slandering China to “reassert its patriarchal role”.
Mr Albanese also met with Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, and leaders of the federation of Micronesia, Samoa and Vanuatu.
Mr Bainimarama also presented him with a war club, before the pair launched a new $83m maritime facility.
Mr Albanese later watched State of Origin with a group of officials.
Meanwhile, opposition defence spokesman Andrew Hastie has called on nations to stand up for their democratic values if they wish to secure peace in the Indo-­Pacific region.
During a speech in London, Mr Hastie also warned that the “weak are no longer safe” and the risk from ­authoritarian powers stretches to the Indo-Pacific. “None of us can take for granted our relationships in the region,” Mr Hastie said.
“They must be stewarded. We must invest in them.” US vows to increase presence in the Pacific
United States Vice President Kamala Harris has vowed to increase the nation’s presence in the Pacific and take a united approach to calling out bad actors undermining the rules-based order.
The Biden administration has announced a suite of initiatives to expand its footprint in the Pacific and counter China’s growing influence.
They will seek to establish new embassies in Kiribati and Tonga in a bid to strengthen ties with the region.
Peace corps will also return to Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu, and an envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum will be appointed.
The US will triple funding for economic development and ocean resilience to $60m a year for the next decade, and establish a strategy for the region.
The development heightens the battle for power in the region, with China not invited to participate in the forum.
But it’s understood two officials from the Chinese embassy snuck into the event to listen to the White House address.
The Biden administration is seeking to expand its diplomatic footprint in the region, including reopening its embassy in the Solomon Islands, to counter China’s push to increase its influence.
In a virtual address to a tuna fisheries meeting, Ms Harris acknowledged that in recent years the region has not received the diplomatic attention and support that it deserved. “You are on the front lines of an existential crisis for entire planet,” she said. “The world’s emissions have had an outsized impact on your nations.
“As we work with the world to reduce emissions, we will continue to partner with you to build resilience, support adaptation, mobilise climate finance and ensure sustainability of Fisheries and marine resources.”
Ms Harris said she considered the US relationship with the Pacific to be a “true partnership and friendship” based on mutual respect and trust.
“We will embark on a new chapter in our partnership, a chapter with increased American presence, where we commit to work with you in the short and long term to take on the most pressing issues that you face,” she said. “We will also work to empower and strong and united Pacific Islands Forum which will strengthen your voice on the world stage as we continue to work together. “We will listen, collaborate and co-ordinate at every step of the way.”
And in a veiled swipe at China, she also reiterated the need to strengthen the international rules based order saying it had brought the region peace and stability for more than 75 years.

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