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‘Each lump of coal is a nail in our coffins’

Pacific church leader tells Scott Morrison ‘each lump of coal is a nail in our coffins’

MADRID, Dec 9, 2019 - The General Secretary for the Pacific Conference of Churches has told Scott Morrison that the coal industry is killing the Pacific region.

The General Secretary of the Pacific Council of Churches, Fijian clergyman and climate advocate Reverend James Bhagwan made the incendiary remarks on Day 8 of the COP25 climate conference in Madrid, Spain, overnight during a panel discussion on climate change through the prism of the Pacific concept of neighbour.

“As much as I love him [Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison] as a Christian brother, each lump of coal represents a nail in our coffins and to our crosses,” the Methodist leader said.

Without singling Australia out the reverend used the biblical story of the good Samaritan to describe the role of some actors in the region, who claim “they are part of the Pacific family but leave us lying, bleeding, dying on the side of the road.”

“So the question is, who really is our neighbour in the geopolitical context of climate change?”

The reverend told the audience that when Pacific nations were facing obliteration “we’re hearing words like ‘come and pick our fruit’. That’s not very loving as a neighbour,” he said, referring to comments by Australian Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack.

Earlier this year, the Nationals leader trivialised the plight of Pacific islanders by suggesting that even if their homes were swallowed up by rising sea levels, Pacific people would survive because they could come to Australia to work in the agricultural sector as fruit pickers.

Reverend Bhagwan’s sentiments were echoed by other panellists, including former Kiribati President and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Anote Tong, former Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga and Marshall Islands Climate Envoy, poet and daughter of the Marshall Islands President, Kathy Jetnil Kijiner.

Ms Jetnil Kijiner said it was disappointing that less-developed nations and small islands states, that had made virtually no contribution to the climate crisis, were leading the response and decried the lack of ambition on display from the major polluters, singling out Australia.

Sopoaga was also critical, saying that Australia’s commitment to climate action was not reflective of what the Pacific needed.

The remarks came the day after Australian Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor arrived in Madrid for COP25, where he is expected to push for Kyoto carryover credits to be allowed to meet Australia’s Paris Agreement emission reduction targets.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Head of Pacific, Joseph Moeono-Kolio said: “emission trafficking schemes from Kyoto had no place in Paris and they have no place in Madrid.”

“Energy Minister Angus Taylor has long been called out by experts for cooking the books and misleading on Australia's appalling lack of climate action,” he said.

“Australia is on fire and the Pacific is drowning. Our collective futures hang in the balance but Taylor is more concerned about appeasing his mates in the coal industry than taking the urgent climate action that Australians want and need.”

Greenpeace Australia Pacific delegates are in Madrid for COP25 and are working with Pacific Island leaders to amplify calls for urgent climate action into the media.


Video of the event available here


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