Prime Minister Tony Abbott has held his government’s line on climate change despite pleas from low-lying Pacific Island nations for a stronger stance on emissions and temperature rises.
Both Mr Abbott and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key refused to go further than their existing commitments on global warming at the Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby.
Some Pacific Island leaders said they were disappointed in the leaders for putting economic growth ahead of the survival of communities in small Pacific nations.
“Australia and New Zealand have made no additional commitments when it comes to climate change,” Mr Abbott told reporters after the meeting Thursday night.
“As you know Australia and New Zealand have already announced very ambitious targets for emissions reduction to take to the Paris conference.”
The Australian response disappointed leaders who said some people were already being forced out of their homes by rising salinity, lack of water, or damage from severe storms or high tides.
Kiribati President Anote Tong had campaigned especially hard for Australia to further reduce emissions, support a tighter cap on global temperature rises and consider a moratorium on new coal mines.
“It is disappointing,” he said.
“I would really have loved to go back and say yes, we had support, solid support from all of the Pacific neighbours including our developed neighbours. How does it feel? I’ve learned to live with the disappointments.”
‘Time doesn’t mean anything when you are about to have water lapping at your door’
The government’s careful rhetoric was at odds with a casual quip from Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.
Noting that Friday’s meeting on Syrian refugees was running a bit late, Mr Dutton remarked that it was running to “Cape York time”, to which Mr Abbott replied “we had a bit of that up in Port Moresby”.
Mr Dutton then added “time doesn’t mean anything when you’re about to have water lapping at your door”.
Pacific Island nations had said the meeting was their last chance to highlight the threat they face from climate change, before the UN Climate Conference in Paris.
The forum also stopped short of agreeing to requests for a fact-finding mission to investigate reports of worsening human rights abuses in the Indonesian province of West Papua.
Instead it voted to consult Indonesia about the move.