For Immediate Release: Pacific Civil Society Denounces Fiji Prime Minister’s Alarming Stance on Fossil Fuels Amidst Climate Crisis

[SUVA, 20 October 2023] — Pacific civil society, representing the voices and concerns of communities deeply impacted by the climate crisis, expresses its profound disappointment and deep concern over the recent remarks made by Fiji’s Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka while on a State visit in Australia. His comments, suggesting that the Pacific take a ‘realistic’ approach towards the Australian coal mining and gas production, demonstrate a concerning lack of urgency and empathy for the escalating climate emergency in the Pacific., to deny this fact

At a time when the Sixth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) urgently calls for an end to all new coal, oil, and gas projects globally, Prime Minister Rabuka’s stance appears tone-deaf to the dire reality faced by Pacific nations. Fossil fuels are the primary drivers of climate change and the Pacific region is on the front lines of the climate crisis, experiencing its devastating impacts firsthand.

Prime Minister Rabuka’s remarks come off the back of a recent analysis by Oil Change International highlighting Australia’s role as one of five global north countries responsible for the majority (51 per cent) of planned oil and gas expansion to 2050. Australia’s planned new extraction alone would be equivalent to the lifetime emissions of 25 new coal-fired power plants. The projected oil and gas expansion from a small group of countries would push the world well beyond the 1.5-degree threshold, a limit that the Pacific collectively fought to establish. It’s also clear that to reach this target, not only must new expansion be immediately halted, but existing fields will also need to be closed down early.

It is crucial to highlight that Prime Minister Rabuka does not speak for the entire Pacific. Our neighbouring low-lying atoll countries are already enduring immeasurable suffering due to the consequences of the climate crisis. They are engaged in a battle for their survival, their dignity, their homes, and for future generations.

Furthermore, we find these comments to be particularly surprising in light of Fiji’s recent support for the Port Vila Call for a Just Transition towards a fossil fuel-free Pacific. These recent remarks also call into question its role as a ‘friend’ of the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance whose membership boasts some of the most progressive voices calling for the phase-out of coal, oil and gas production in international climate dialogues.

Australia’s economic reliance on fossil fuels cannot be prioritized over the existential threats faced by Pacific nations. While we acknowledge the economic significance of fossil fuel industries to Australia, we implore our neighbours to recognize the urgent need for a transition towards sustainable and renewable alternatives. The imperative to act is not negotiable.

We call upon Prime Minister Rabuka to reconsider his position and align Fiji’s efforts with the global consensus for immediate and substantial climate action towards phasing out all fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable Energy. The time for decisive action to safeguard our region and our planet’s future is now, and there is no room for compromise.

Download the Press Release Statement here.