Pacific leaders have called on Australia to abandon plans to use carry-over credits to meet Paris climate targets and to immediately stop new coalmining, warning some of their countries could be uninhabitable as soon as 2030.
In a strongly worded statement issued at the end of a Pacific Islands development forum in Fiji, the leaders said they were deeply concerned about a lack of “comprehension, ambition or commitment” from developed nations despite the climate crisis posing grave consequences for their people.
They called for greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced immediately, pointing to the “stark warnings” in a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change setting out what would need to be done to limit global heating to 1.5C.
“The science warns of the real possibility that coral atoll nations could become uninhabitable as early as 2030,” the statement, called the Nadi Bay declaration, said.
“By 2100, the coral atoll nations of the republic of the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Tokelau and the Maldives and many [small island developing states] could be submerged.”
Last week Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, rejected calls from Pacific states for Australia to do more to combat climate change, telling the ABC they “should be pleased” that it was meeting the target it set at the 2015 Paris meeting.
Most climate experts say Australia is not expected to meet its 2030 emissions target – a 26%-28% cut below 2005 levels – under current policies and the country would need to make much deeper cuts than proposed to play its part under the Paris agreement. Australia’s emissions have risen year on year since the Coalition repealed a national carbon price scheme.
In a clear reference to Australia, the statement called on the countries to refrain from using carry-over credits from the Kyoto protocol to meet targets under the Paris agreement. Almost all other developed countries have said they will not use carry-over credits, which Australia has access to after over-achieving compared with its Kyoto agreement target of a 5% cut below 2000 levels.
Analysts say using these credits effectively reduces Australia’s Paris commitment by about eight percentage points. Climate campaigners say the credits do nothing to escalate efforts to combat the problem as is required and Australia has access to carry-over credits only because it set itself unambitious Kyoto targets.
The statement signed by nine leaders also called on coal producers “to immediately cease any new mining of coal and develop a strategy for a decadal phase-out and closure of all existing coal production”.
It wanted developed countries to take immediate steps to stop subsidies to fossil fuels and to support climate finance and technology transfer for vulnerable nations.
It said the climate emergency “poses the single greatest threat to the human rights and security of present and future generations of Pacific Island peoples”.
The development forum came two weeks before the Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, attends the separate Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu.
Australia is yet to respond to a request from the United Nations secretary general, António Guterres, asking countries to outline plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 ahead of a climate action summit in New York in September.
Frank Bainimarama, Fiji’s prime minister and chair of the development forum, called on all developed countries – but especially what he called “our larger neighbours in the Pacific” – to hear the call ahead of the Tuvalu meeting and make their Paris commitments more ambitious.
“We cannot allow climate commitments to be watered down in the meeting hosted by the nation whose very existence is threatened by the rising waters lapping at its shores,” he said.
Richie Merzian, from the progressive thinktank the Australia Institute, said the call by Pacific leaders for carry-over credits to be cancelled was unprecedented.
“The Nadi Bay declaration is an unadulterated and powerful message to Australia and other major economies that, ahead of the UN climate summit in September, they need to lift their game on climate action,” he said.