SYDNEY – Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama warned his Australian counterpart, Scott Morrison, that climate change poses an “enormous” threat to his country and the Pacific islands, local media reported on Friday.
“Here in Fiji, climate change is no laughing matter,” Bainimarama, a former military coup leader who in recent years has become a leader in the fight against climate change, said Thursday night at an event in Suva in which participated the Australian premier, who on Friday ends a visit to the country.
“From where we are sitting, we cannot imagine how the interests of any single industry can be placed above the welfare of Pacific peoples – vulnerable people in the world over,” added Bainimarama, according to Australian national broadcaster ABC, referring to the coal industry in Australia.
Fiji, like other Pacific island nations, is especially vulnerable to climate change from rising sea levels, which pollute drinking water and ruin crops, and increasing weather instability.
Bainimarama was the first politician to publicly confront Morrison over climate change, which has caused more than one clash between Australia and its neighbors.
In his speech, Bainimarama said Australia and Fiji should be “good neighbors” and urged Morrison to honor the commitment of his predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull, to promote the use of clean energy by pointing out that it will ensure the future survival of the Pacific islands.
Australia pledged to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, but a recent UN report said that there has been no improvement in Australia’s climate policy since 2017.
Climate change is a thorny issue in Australia, which has seen several of its governments fall over policies regarding the introduction of a tax on carbon or the national energy plan.