Pacific Islands Forum: Australia under pressure to rein in fossil fuel subsidies | Pacific Islands Forum

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Australia is facing new pressure to rein in fossil fuel subsidies, with new figures showing that just a fraction of that spending could fully fund the shift to clean energy in eight Pacific island states.

The climate crisis is one of the biggest issues on the agenda at the Pacific Islands Forum’s main political meeting this week, with Vanuatu demanding “radical” action to end the world’s addiction to fossil fuels.

The Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, arrived in the Cook Islands on Tuesday local time (Wednesday Australian time) and acknowledged that the climate crisis was “certainly felt most acutely in island nations”.

In a report to coincide with the talks, campaigners highlight how Pacific island nations are on the frontline of the climate crisis, despite being responsible for just 0.23% of annual global emissions.

In contrast, the world’s 15 highest emitting countries – led by China, the US and India, with Australia in 15th place – are collectively responsible for 71.88% of annual emissions.

The report was commissioned by the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, a group campaigning to end new fossil fuel development and phase out existing production.

Island countries are still heavily dependent on imports of diesel fuel for use in generators, says the report titled Ki Mua: Towards a Just Transition for the Pacific.

It suggests that a mix of large-scale and decentralized renewable energy sources, dominated by solar and wind power plants, would offer “significant opportunities” to the region.

These gains include reducing pollution and improving public health, while ending dependence on fossil fuel imports. It suggests that developed countries like Australia have a responsibility to help.

“Over the past year, Australia has handed out US$7 billion ($11 billion) to the fossil fuel industry,” said Auimatagi Joe Moeono-Kolio, adviser to the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative.

“That is seven times the amount of money it would take to finance a transition to renewable energy for eight Pacific countries.”

The report estimates that in eight Pacific island states analyzed, the initial cost of replacing all existing fossil fuel electricity generation “ranges from $691 million to just over $1 billion, depending on the specific technology mix.”

The figure for fossil fuel subsidies is taken from an analysis by the Australia Institute think tank, which examined all “federal and state government spending and tax incentives to support the fossil fuel industry” in 2022-2023.

The largest share is the federal government’s fuel tax credit scheme, which gives companies a tax credit on fuel used in machinery, vehicles over 4.5 tonnes and vehicles not used on public roads.

The Australia Institute states that this tax break “makes fossil fuel use cheaper for energy-intensive businesses, such as coal mines”. But the mining industry has repeatedly rejected this as a subsidy.

Moeono-Kolio said that if Australia wants to host the 2026 UN Climate Change Conference in partnership with the region, “then the first step is to start caring for and supporting the peoples of the Pacific rather than the efforts of to blockade the Pacific Ocean, as it has done for decades.”

Vanuatu’s climate minister, Ralph Regenvanu, called for a “sustainable, radical” phase-out of fossil fuels, saying the world no longer had time for “slow and steady” action.

Tuvalu’s Minister of Finance and Climate, Seve Paeniu, added: “It is high time that rich, fossil fuel producing countries, which are largely responsible for the climate crisis, take the lead in phasing out fossil fuels, and our supporting countries in the shift to renewable energy sources. energy.”

The Albanians met three leaders on his first day on the island of Rarotonga, including Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano, who described himself as “the leader of a country that will be submerged” if current trends continue.

Albanians pledged to work with Natano, arguing that his Labor government was elected last year “on a platform for action on climate change.”

Natano was later asked by reporters what he thought about Australia approving more coal and gas projects.

“Well, it’s an issue that we’re working with Australia to see if we can help them help, because fossil fuels are the biggest contributor to global warming,” Natano said.

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