Support for Australia’s UN climate bid should be linked to ceasing fossil fuel expansion, Pacific leaders say

“Australia has ignored our pleas for years. Why then must Pacific leaders be in such a hurry to show support for Cop31? What is the rush?”

Australia is considered well-placed to host Cop31, having won support from several members of the “Western Europe and Others” group that will decide where the meeting is held, but has made clear it wants it to be a joint bid. Bowen has repeatedly emphasised the Pacific’s role.

The climate minister spent three days in the Fijian capital of Suva this week, convening a meeting of Pacific climate change ministers and attending a two-day regional UN climate discussion. Speaking before flying out on Wednesday, Bowen said there was strong support for an Australia-Pacific Cop bid.

“We talked about how we might be able to work together to ensure that this is truly and genuinely a Pacific COP,” he said.

“As I said to the ministers, I want people to leave COP 31, if Australia hosts it, saying ‘Wow, that really was a Pacific COP’. And by that it means a chance to elevate Pacific issues at a time when the Pacific has the world’s attention.”

The Albanese government has been criticised for approving new fossil fuel developments, including the creation of large new gas fields. It has committed $1.5bn to Darwin’s Middle Arm industrial precinct, which a departmental brief to the government described as “a key enabler” for development of the Beetaloo Basin, a potentially large source of gas.

As Pacific islanders, we bear the brunt of the climate crisis. The time to end fossil fuel dependence is now
Ralph Regenvanu
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​Speaking in Suva, Bowen said Australia was moving from getting 35% of electricity from renewable energy to 82% in 2030. He said the country “increasingly has become a renewable energy superpower” and was working with its major fossil fuel customer countries, such as Korea and Japan, to help them transition to clean generation.

“They’re on a journey. We’re not going to remove coal and gas tomorrow, nobody really is expecting [that],” he said. “But it’s been a good discussion [with Pacific climate ministers] about how fast the transition in Australia is going, and it’s going very, very fast..”

The Pacific Islands Climate Action Network, a collection of nongovernment groups, said it was concerned about Australia’s eagerness to secure early support for the climate conference bid.

“While we acknowledge Australia’s aspiration to lead in hosting Cop31, Pacific governments must seek tangible evidence of Australia’s dedication to substantial climate action, especially with regard to fossil fuels,” the network said in a statement.

The next major UN climate summit, Cop28, will be held in the United Arab Emirates, starting in late November.

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