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Morrison forced to step up Pacific charm offensive

He said he hoped Mr Morrison and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s visit to the tiny Pacific Island nation would lead to “realisation and recognition of the plight our people are facing”.

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Mr Morrison announced on Tuesday his government would redirect more than half a billion dollars in foreign aid towards renewable energy projects and disaster relief throughout the Pacific amid calls to “do more” to curb the threat facing his neighbours.

But Mr Sopoaga said there was no point talking about national policies if developed nations continued to ignore the effects they would have on people’s lives.

“When we talk about these things in isolation from the real lives of people, it doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

“No matter how much money you put on the table, it doesn’t give you the excuse not to do the right thing. That is cutting down your emissions, including not opening new coal mines. That is the thing we want to see.”

The group of eight – Tuvala, Nauru, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Niue, Palau, the Cook Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia – issued a statement following their forum, declaring climate change the single greatest threat to the security of Pacific Island nations.

“We have crossed the threshold with respect to dangerous interference with the climate system and we are now threatening the existence of current and future generations.”

Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Alex Hawke, in Tuvalu for the forum ahead of Mr Morrison’s arrival, said Australia was listening on the issue of climate change.

“We will be doing more. We will be spending more through our package and dealing [with] the adaptation, the resilience needs of the Pacific,” Mr Hawke said.

He said the federal government would deal with Pacific nations on a bilateral basis to ensure the money would be spent on priority areas.

The Australian government is making a transition over time, but importantly in the Pacific, will be spending money on renewable energy.

International Development and the Pacific Minister Alex Hawke

“The Australian government is making a transition over time, but importantly in the Pacific, will be spending money on renewable energy,” he said.

“This is the most amount of money Australia has ever spent on climate in the Pacific.”

Mr Morrison said on Tuesday Australia would “smash” its 2020 Kyoto commitments, would meet its Paris Agreement target and that he would relay that to Pacific leaders when he travelled to Tuvalu on Wednesday.

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“So we’re turning up, we’re showing up. So what the Step Up is all about in the Pacific, it’s about showing up with this type of support,” Mr Morrison said.

Mr Morrison will also bolster the Pacific Skills Partnership, agreed at last year’s Pacific Islands Forum, releasing plans on Wednesday for an interactive labour market and skills data platform to assist workforce planning, training and movement of workers across the Pacific, as well as to Australia and New Zealand.

The portal will help individual countries leverage the collective strengths and knowledge of the larger region, creating more opportunities for Pacific Islanders to work within the region and build a regional defence against skills shortages, unemployment and brain drain.

He will also announce $1.5 million for an extra 150 technical and vocational scholarships through the Australia Pacific Training Coalition.

Mr Morrison is expected to take part in up to four bilateral meetings on Wednesday, including with
Vanuatu prime minister Charlot Salwai, Ms Ardern Cook Islands PM Henry Puna and forum host Mr Sopoaga.

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