Fijian PM Bainimarama wants NZ PM Jacinda Ardern to keep pressure on other countries on climate change and stay on ‘right side of history’


Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama wants New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to join him in “demanding” serious climate action from the rest of the world.
But Prime Minister Ardern has no plans to bring up climate change with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison when she meets him later this week, despite the country’s raging domestic debate over climate targets and position as a huge exporter of coal.
Ardern is in Fiji for a three-day visit, the second by a prime minister since the 2006 coup that installed Bainimarama, who has since won two elections.
Bainimarama, speaking in a joint-press conference after a bilateral meeting between the pair on Tuesday afternoon, congratulated Ardern on New Zealand’s Zero Carbon Act and said he could count on New Zealand to be an ally in international climate talks.
“Fiji is proud to join you on the right side of history by passing our own climate change bill this year which lays out our pathway to net zero emissions,” Bainimarama said.
“The work in the next nine months in the lead up to [a UN meeting on climate change] is going to be pivotal for the next thirty years of climate action and to securing a political future for the Pacific and the rest of the planet.”
“I know I can count on Prime Minister Ardern to not only do the right thing but to join Fiji in demanding the right thing from the rest of the world. Specifically to limit temperature rises to 1.5C.”
There is currently a major political debate in Australia, Ardern’s next stop, concerning climate targets, with the opposition Labor Party exceeding New Zealand’s ambitions with a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050. The Australian Government has ridiculed this target as “reckless.”
Ardern was more diplomatic in her statements on climate, describing it as a “full-frontal assault” and saying New Zealand would be partners with Fiji on the issue.
The joint-statement issued by the pair conspicuously noted that “international fora” was the best place to advance action.
Ardern said ahead of her trip that she would not be directly raising climate action with Morrison when visiting him later this week, as she believed meetings like the Pacific Island Forum were the place for such talks, and she wouldn’t want to meddle in other country’s domestic politics.
At the last Pacific Island Forum she was drawn into hostilities between Bainimarama and Morrison, with some Australian media suggesting she was lecturing the country. This eventually led to shock jock radio host Alan Jones suggesting that Morrison shove a sock down Ardern’s throat, to widespread outcry.
Bainimarama accused Morrison of insulting behaviour and said he was alienating Pacific nations into the arms of China.
Also discussed at the bilateral meeting was policing cooperation between Fiji and New Zealand, particularly to stop the drug trade and transnational crime.
Ardern discussed an $11million (US$6.9 million) package to help Fiji upskill its police force, which included a new drug laboratory for prosecutions that would be ope in May.
Ardern is in Fiji for three days ahead of a brief trip to Sydney.
This is her first visit to Fiji as Prime Minister and only the second since the most recent coup, which put Bainimarama in power.
Former Prime Minister John Key visited in 2016 but was attacked by Bainimarama in a state dinner speech.
Bainimarama is again giving a speech at a state dinner organised for Tuesday evening.
Fiji has literally laid out the red carpet for Ardern, with many billboards welcoming her to the capital of Suva and multiple front-page articles.
Most of her media schedule was read out on the evening news and traffic was cleared several times for her motorcade to travel through the city.