Australia’s new government pledges to invest in Pacific climate

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Minister says Australia will meet 82% of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2030

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong launched a “new era” of engagement with the Pacific in a speech to the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji.

Wong, fresh from a trip to Tokyo for the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, is heading to the South Pacific amid overt pressure from Beijing to exert influence in the region.

The Foreign Secretary said the newly elected Albanian government would “listen” to the climate change concerns of Australia’s Pacific neighbours.

“We will listen. We will hear from you – your ideas on how we can address our common challenges and achieve our common aspirations together,” she told attendees May 26.

Wong said the previous government had “neglected its responsibility to act on climate change”.

“Ignoring calls from our Pacific family to act. Disrespecting Pacific nations as they struggle to adapt to what is an existential threat,” she said.

Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong arrives at the Pacific Islands Forum in Suva, Fiji on May 26, 2022. (Pita Simpson/Getty Images)

“Whether it manifests itself in rising sea levels in Pacific island countries, or disastrous bushfires and catastrophic floods at home in Australia, we can see that climate change is happening all over the world. Pacific family. I want to assure you that we have heard you.

Wong said the Albanian government was elected on a platform to increase the country’s emissions reduction target from 26-28% to 43% by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050 .

The centre-left Labor government will also enshrine this commitment in law and make a formal submission to the United Nations.

“Our plan will see the proportion of renewables in Australia’s national energy market increase to 82% by 2030,” she said.

In 2021, Australia’s national energy market supplies 64.67% (pdf) of its electricity from coal-fired generation.

The Labor government has also promised a new Australia-Pacific partnership on climate infrastructure to support energy projects in the Pacific and the creation of a “climate change ambassador”. It is unclear how the climate partnership will link up with existing funding initiatives and programs such as the Australia-Pacific Climate Partnership and the Australian Pacific Infrastructure Funding Facility.

Wong’s speech comes as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi travels the Pacific in a bid to cement relations with Beijing.

The Chinese Communist Party is proposing a South Pacific-wide security and data bloc to encompass 10 different Pacific nations. Beijing is proposing a free trade zone between China and the Pacific islands and an effort for more cooperation in “traditional and non-traditional security areas”, including a commitment to work on data networks, cybersecurity and smart customs systems.

David Panuelo, president of the Federated States of Micronesia, has written to 21 Pacific leaders protesting the regional pact over fears it could trigger a “cold war” between Beijing and democratic nations.

“Chinese control over our communications infrastructure, our ocean territory and the resources therein, and our security space, in addition to impacts on our sovereignty, is that it increases the chances that China will come into conflict with the Australia, Japan, the United States and New Zealand,” he said in the letter obtained by Reuters.

The high-level visits to the Pacific also come against the backdrop of the impending Beijing-Solomon Islands security deal that could pave the way for the stationing of Chinese troops, weapons and warships in the region.

Eric Louw, a retired political communications professor and affirmative action expert, warned Democratic leaders against using aid to win the battle for influence against Beijing.

“A report by the Asian Development Bank said the Solomon Islands government is so weak that donors have been warned not to give it too much aid because of the country’s limited capacity to absorb it – too much aid would simply exceed the limited administrative capacity it had, and only fuel corruption and waste,” he wrote in The Epoch Times.

“During the Cold War era, corrupt politicians in weak and underdeveloped countries, from the Pacific to Africa and from Latin America to Asia, enriched themselves by playing both sides against each other. the other,” he said. “Maybe [Prime Minister Manasseh] Sogavare believes the good times are back and the “new Cold War” means he can simultaneously poke his nose into the hollows of Beijing, Canberra and Washington. »

Daniel Y.Teng

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Daniel Y. Teng is based in Sydney. It focuses on national affairs, including federal politics, the response to COVID-19 and Australia-China relations. Do you have any advice? Contact him at daniel.teng@epochtimes.com.au.

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