‘Fingers crossed’: Samoa PM hopes Australians will vote for climate action | Australia news

Samoa’s prime minister appears to have called for Pacific leaders to “cross their fingers” for a change of government in Australia so more action on climate change will be taken.

Tuilaepa Sailele’s comment, reported by the ABC, came during a press conference after a summit between Pacific leaders and UN secretary general Antonio Guterres in Fiji, who is visiting the Pacific for the first time since taking on the role.

Guterres was asked about the “debate in Australia during our election campaign about climate change” and deftly sidestepped the question, saying: “If I have learned something in more than [20] years of political life is that foreigners should not get involved in electoral debates in other countries, so I do not intend to get involved in the national debate of Australia.”

But Sailele later offered his own answer, saying: “I think we should worry not too much about it. The question will be answered by the voters. Let us keep our fingers crossed!”

Climate change has become a key issue in the Australian federal election, with the opposition Labor party saying the difference between the two parties’ policies on the subject was “perhaps above all others … night and day, black and white”.

Labor has committed to a target of reducing emissions by 45% by 2030, whereas the Coalition, which has suffered brutal infighting over climate change policy in recent years, is pushing for a “climate solutions” fund that pays polluters to lower their emissions, with the aim of meeting Paris commitments of lowering emissions by 28%.

Prime minister Scott Morrison also says that despite Australia’s emissions rising over the past five years, the country is on track to meet its targets under the Paris Agreement “in a canter”.

Guterres is in Fiji as part of a visit through the region to witness the impacts of climate change and learn from the Pacific about their resilience efforts.

Speaking after meetings on Wednesday, Guterres said in order to limit the damage from climate change, governments around the world needed to introduce carbon taxes, halt plans for new coal plants and accelerate the closure of existing ones.

Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum said in a statement: “All countries, with no caveats, must agree to take decisive and transformative action to reduce global emissions … If we do not, we will lose. We will lose our homes, our ways of life, our wellbeing and our livelihoods. We know this because we are experiencing loss already.”

Australian officials were present at the post-summit press conference but only as observers, because the government is in caretaker mode in the run-up to Saturday’s vote.

The Guardian contacted the prime minister’s office in Samoa, but they could not confirm Sailele’s comments or views. The Australian department of foreign affairs and trade was also contacted for comment.

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