Australia is under increasing global pressure to adopt a net zero emissions by 2050 target, with the Fijian prime minister labelling the goal a matter of life or death.
Frank Bainimarama is an outspoken advocate for climate action and says that while the coronavirus pandemic has crippled economies, climate change is more devastating.
“Any later than 1st January 2050 will be too late to achieve net zero emissions,” he told a Smart Energy Council forum on Wednesday.
“These aren’t aimless targets, they are life or death deadlines backed by science.
“This isn’t about focusing on words over deeds, quite the contrary. Clearly-stated plans and meaningful actions aren’t mutually exclusive.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has rejected calls to adopt a net zero emissions goal by 2050, instead lofting the target into the second half of the century.
Mr Morrison has said he is “more focused on the doing”.
Mr Bainamarama also urged countries to use the coronavirus recovery to transition to clean energy, saying it would have far-reaching benefits that will span generations.
He praised Kiwi leader Jacinda Ardern for pledging to reach 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
“Our neighbours in New Zealand get it,” Mr Bainamarama said.
China has recently committed to a net zero by 2060 goal, which former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull believes will spur more investment in renewable projects.
He also criticised the government’s gas-fired recovery plan, saying the $4 gigajoule goal was “unrealistic”.
“There are people who are trying to persuade the government to literally spend billions and billions of dollars to pay for infrastructure to in effect subsidise gas,” Mr Turnbull said.
“And that is what is bonkers. Because it’s a transitional fuel and we run the real risk that you’ll be funding what will become inevitably stranded assets.”
He says if the government wants to spend money on the energy sector, it should support the trend of fossil fuels being phased out.
Mr Turnbull says the government must focus on helping regional areas who currently rely on coal generators, as they will inevitably close.
Meanwhile, a stocktake commissioned by the Australian Conservation Foundation shows there were more than 27,000 full-time jobs in renewable energy and 58,000 jobs in energy efficiency last year.
While clean energy makes up just a fifth of electricity supply, it has more jobs compared to electricity generation by coal (12,167) or gas and oil (22,003).
The foundation fears the government’s gas-fired coronavirus economic recovery could hurt the clean energy sector’s growth.