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Australian PM Scott Morrison will arrive to a frosty reception at Pacific Island Forum


Australian PM Scott Morrison will arrive to a frosty reception at Pacific Island Forum

scott morrison pacific
Photo: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison arrives in Tuvalu today for the Pacific Islands Forum.

Since assuming the premiership last year, Mr Morrison has aimed to improve Australia’s relations with South Pacific countries—mostly via aid pledges—in an attempt to rein in China’s increasing influence in the region.

However, climate policy figures to be a key challenge for Mr Morrison today. Australia’s current climate policy aims to reduce its carbon emissions to 26% of 2005 levels by 2030 but has been roundly criticised by Pacific Islander leaders as not enough. For many countries in the region, climate change is an existential threat.

There is very little Canberra can offer the region on climate policy in the medium-term. Climate policy was a major point of difference in Australia’s recent election. Mr Morrison’s policy promises were far more parsimonious than that of the opposition. His victory suggests he lacks the domestic mandate to make any sweeping promises today on limiting Australia’s emissions.

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After Pacific countries issued a statement last month declaring that some atoll countries, including Tuvalu, could be inhabitable by 2030, climate change will only become more important to the region. Thus, Australia’s lack of action on the issue could become a major point of contention in the long-term and will likely hamper its efforts to foster better relations with the region.

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