Australia looks ahead, with hopes to host climate talks

Australia has praised the role of the Pacific in helping achieve a breakthrough at the world's biggest climate talks, as it hopes to co-host a future summit with its island neighbours.

The 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP28, wrapped up on Wednesday night with an agreement to "transition away" from all fossil fuels.

The final deal has been met with consternation from some, who believe it was watered down and weak, and a degree of celebration from others who have upheld it for being the first such agreement to mention fossil fuels.

Australia's Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen said the agreement would make this year's summit one of the most significant.

"This COP is a turning point, not an end point, but a turning point," he told reporters in Dubai.

"It could have been a breakdown, (but) Australia worked with New Zealand and so many other countries to make sure it's a breakthrough."

Mr Bowen recognised the role Pacific countries played in strengthening the final climate deal.

"The Pacific has long called for the highest possible ambition to keep (a temperature rise limited to) 1.5C alive, and while this outcome today may not have fully met their calls, their voices are being heard," he said. 

"And as long as we have anything to do with it, (they) will continue to be heard and continue to be heard even more loudly."

Australia in 2022 signalled its hopes to co-host the 2026 COP31 with Pacific nations.

As the world's third largest exporter of fossil fuels, it has used the latest conference to try shake off its reputation and to prove its worth.

Mr Bowen on Tuesday declared Australia, alongside other members of the Umbrella group, would not sign a draft agreement that omitted demands for a fossil fuel phase-out, calling it a "death certificate" for small island nations. 

The government has previously announced resilience projects in the region, and in November said Tuvalu residents facing displacement from climate change would be able to resettle in Australia.

But more may need to be done to win over Australia's neighbours.

Joseph Sikulu, Pacific managing director of environmental advocacy movement, said COP28 "promised us an historic achievement and what we have received is a lukewarm outcome".

“It is not enough for us to reference the science and then make agreements that ignore what the science is telling us we need to do," he said.

"We will not let the future of the Pacific fall through loopholes... and we will hold countries like Australia accountable, who continue to delay a true phase-out with dangerous distractions."

The COP31 bid will be decided next year, with Australia and the Pacific set to face off against Turkey for the 2026 hosting rights.

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