Climate change to dominate Pacific Island Forum

  • 06/09/2015
Climate change to dominate Pacific Island Forum

By Lisa Martin

Australia and New Zealand are expected to cop a behind-the-scenes walloping from Pacific Island leaders disappointed they are not doing more to combat climate change.

The issue will likely dominate this week's Pacific Island Forum leaders summit in Port Moresby, ahead of the United Nations climate change conference in Paris later in the year.

Pacific leaders want the world to work on restricting the global warming temperature rise to 1.5degC, fearing a two-degree target will risk the survival of many tiny islands.

Natural disaster recovery will be fresh on their minds.

The summit starts tomorrow, six months after Cyclone Pam, which flattened much of Vanuatu and caused heavy flooding on Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands.

Host nation Papua New Guinea is grappling with the opposite problem - what could be its worst drought in 20 years and a potential food crisis.

Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has said El Niño conditions have been exacerbated by the effects of climate change.

The Solomon Islands and Vanuatu are also experiencing a dry spell.

Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who is boycotting the summit and will instead send along his foreign minister, had a crack at Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott at last week's meeting of his rival club of Pacific leaders - the Pacific Islands Development Forum - that excludes Australia.

He urged Mr Abbott to abandon the "coalition of the selfish" and put the welfare of small Pacific island neighbours ahead of coal industry interests.

The Abbott government has announced a carbon emissions reduction target of 26-28 percent on 2005 levels by 2030, which has been criticised for lacking ambition.

New Zealand's target is a cut of 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

The summit is expected to sign off on a joint climate change and disaster management strategy for the Pacific.

Climate change won't be the only source of tension.

New Zealand has suspended aid to Nauru's justice system over the breakdown of the rule of law on the island nation.

The Pacific Island Forum runs from September 7-11.