The Marshall islands government is unhappy at Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s dismissal of a link between the bushfires in New South Wales, and climate change.
United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres says the fires are absolutely linked to climate change.
“The World Meteorological Organisation has not established the direct link between this wildfire and climate change yet, but what is absolutely clear is that the science is telling us there are increasing heatwaves in Asia, Europe and Australia,” she told CNN on Tuesday.
“These [heatwaves] will continue. They will continue in their intensity and in their frequency.”
Prime Minister Abbott, however, says she was talking through her hat, and the blazes are just a function of life in Australia.
Senator Tony de Brum, the Minister in Assistance to the Marshall Islands President said while it is difficult to tie any one event to climate change, his country is concerned at Mr Abbott’s dismissal of the issue.
“We’ve been watching the fires in Australia over the past few years and can say that we’ve been impressed with their ferocity and the threat that they project to our friends in that part of the world,” he told Pacific Beat.
“But I don’t think that we should just wave this thing off as something that is natural to Australia and is part of life in Australia and therefore not connected in any way to climate change.”
Senator de Brum said Australia should first be looking inward to what it is doing to fight against the impact of climate change.
“Just last month with the blessing of the new environment minister Greg Hunt, the Australian government committed to being a climate leader by supporting the Majuro Declaration for climate leadership – this was the key outcome of the Pacific Island Forum,” he said.
“Australia should step up and be a leader in climate change and not be a laggard.”
Earlier this month, the Australian government began the process of repealing the country’s carbon tax, which was legislated by the previous Labor government.
Instead, the governing Liberal-National coalition will implement its Direct Action Plan.
The plans includes an emissions reduction fund, which would buy emissions from industry and agriculture, and a large-scale tree planting program.