(Bloomberg) -- Australia is pushing back on calls from Pacific Island leaders to speed up its energy transition in order to combat climate change, saying its neighbors need to respect the country’s reliance on coal.
Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama led an attack on Australia’s reluctance to give up the fossil fuel at a summit in Tuvalu this week. The threat to the region from global warming was “existential,” he said, appealing to Australia “to do everything possible to achieve a rapid transition from coal.”
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison flies in to the conference on Wednesday and the signs are his government is not in the mood to compromise. “We won’t have a communique where coal or coal-fired generation, or phasing it out now, is a realistic proposition,” Pacific Minister Alex Hawke said in an interview with Australian Broadcasting Corp. “Australia has a red-line position on coal.”
An announcement that Canberra would divert A$500 million ($340 million) from its foreign aid budget to boost efforts to combat the effects of climate change in the Pacific failed to appease its partners. Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga said giving money should not be used as an excuse not to take necessary steps to cut emissions.
Tuvalu, a nation of just 11,000 people crammed onto low lying atolls, is already experiencing the effects of global warming as rising sea levels cause frequent flooding. That has led to speculation that the entire population might ultimately need to relocate.
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