Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama slams Australia's climate plans

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama at the COP26 summit in Glasgow. Picture: Getty Images
Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama at the COP26 summit in Glasgow. Picture: Getty Images

The Fijian Prime Minister has called out the Morrison government's reliance on unproven or non-existent technologies to reach its net zero emissions target, warning that "you can't spin the science" on climate change.

Frank Bainimarama has also used an address to a major summit in Sydney to urge Australia to break its "dangerous addiction to coal", arguing that all nations had to make sacrifices to contain global warming.

Neither the Coalition nor Labor have plans to end coal production or exports.

Pacific leaders have been pushing the federal government to take stronger action to curb greenhouse gas emissions, amid warnings climate change posed an immediate and existential threat to their countries.

Mr Bainimarama used last month's UN climate summit in Glasgow to call on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to commit to halving emissions by 2030, a target which well exceeds the Coalition's official target and stretch projection, and is above Labor's new 43 per cent aim.

In a pre-recorded speech to the Australasian Emissions Reduction Summit on Thursday morning, Mr Bainimarama went further in his criticism of the Morrison government. He made no mention of Labor's policies, which were unveiled on Friday.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends crisis co-ordination centre. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Prime Minister Scott Morrison attends crisis co-ordination centre. Picture: Elesa Kurtz

While welcoming the government's pledge to reach net zero emissions by 2050, he said it was "troubling" that the plan relied heavily on "aspirational solutions" - including carbon capture technology - "which do not exist".

It is not clear if Mr Bainimarama was referring specifically to carbon capture and storage, which does exist but has not yet been shown to be viable at scale in Australia.

The government's own modelling for its net zero by 2050 plan showed that technological breakthroughs would be needed to achieve the final 15 per cent of emissions cuts.

"When it comes to determining the shape of our future - words matter, commitments matter, technical and technological accuracy matters. As we said time and time again in Glasgow - you simply can't spin the science," Mr Bainimarama told the event, hosted by Carbon Market Institute.

Mr Bainimarama also took a veiled swipe at the Coalition for its swift rejection of a key clause in the Glasgow climate agreement, which called on countries to return to next year's summit with higher 2030 goals.

He encouraged the government to "reconsider" its position, arguing the time to contest the clause was during COP26, not after it.

Labor would take its 43 per cent target to the COP27 summit if it wins next year's election.

Laurence Tubiana, who was one of the architects of the Paris Agreement, said in an interview broadcast at the event that she was disappointed the Morrison government had walked away from the Glasgow pact "almost before the ink was dry".

Mr Bainimarama praised the federal government plan to create a carbon offsets market in the Pacific, and for pledging an extra $500 million for climate resilience projects in the region.

But he said Australia needed to end an "addiction" to coal.

Acknowledging the importance of coal to Australia's economy, history and culture, Mr Bainimarama insisted the world needed to move quickly to end its dependency on the "deadly fossil fuel".

The Glasgow climate pact, signed by Australia, called on countries to speed up efforts to "phase down" the use of unabated coal power.

Mr Bainimarama said Australia, as a major exporter of coal, could play an influential role in ending the sale of the fossil fuel. He argued that with its rich renewables resources, Australia could become a global centre for energy innovation.

"I know the phase down and phase out of coal is a large and bitter pill for coal-producing countries and some coal-dependent countries to swallow, but its benefits will outweigh its costs and we will all have to swallow a lot of bitter medicine to prevent the escalation of the climate crisis," he said.

The Coalition's net zero plan vows to protect the resources sector, although it does anticipate the value of coal production to halve by the middle of the century due to declining global demand.

Opposition climate and energy spokesman Chris Bowen this week said Labor's plan would not bring forward the closure of any coal-fired power stations.

Coal exports were worth $16.3 billion in the September quarter, up 80 per cent on the same period last year, according to the government figures.

Mr Bowen and Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor are scheduled to address the conference on Friday.

This story Fiji PM slams Coalition's climate plans and Australia's 'addiction to coal' first appeared on The Canberra Times.