The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has described climate change as an "existential threat" for Pacific nations, in a long-awaited climate strategy quietly released earlier this month.
The document signals the department will use its aid program to help developing nations respond to climate change.
It comes as the government pledges to step up its investment in the Pacific to $500 million to help island nations build resilience to climate change and natural disasters.
The strategy describes climate change as a "major risk to sustainable development" which was threatening global efforts to stamp out poverty.
"[Climate change] will increasingly affect all Australian development assistance policy and investment decisions, and influence long-term planning and risk management," the strategy says.
"The world's climate is changing faster than most scientists expected even five years ago. The impacts of climate change are magnifying a range of challenges for developing countries.
"For some, including Pacific atoll nations, climate change impacts present an existential threat."
The language echoes that used by Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama at the Pacific Islands Forum in August, where Australia famously attempted to trying to water down a strong consensus from smaller Pacific nations to phase down the use of coal.
But it raised eyebrows, when the document was uploaded with little fanfare to the department's website on November 1. It includes a foreword from DFAT secretary Frances Adamson, not Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne.
Asked why the release of the strategy was so under the radar, a department spokesperson said it was an "internal" document to guide aid program development and implementation.
"Australia has provided support for climate change and disaster resilience projects and initiatives through its development assistance for more than 25 years," the spokesperson said.
"The strategy has been developed and added to as new initiatives have been announced. "
The strategy was released on the same day Senator Payne opened cyclone-standard classrooms at a primary school in Vanuatu, which had been funded by the Australian government.
The department said this was a practical example of Australia's commitment to investing in climate change and disaster resilience across the Pacific.
The world's climate is changing faster than most scientists expected even five years ago. The impacts of climate change are magnifying a range of challenges for developing countries.- The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
However former Kiribati president Anote Tong said earlier this year Australia was acting like an abusive relative, by refusing to make its own changes to reduce climate change.
"What we have today is a country that knows that what it's doing is damaging the future generations yet it continues to do that. What would you do? If a member of your family was actually doing damage to the family would you keep them in place, or ask them to go somewhere else until they can come to their senses?" Mr Tong said.
Tuvalu's prime minister Enele Sopoaga has also said the $500 million package did not give it a free pass for failing to reduce its own emissions.
"No matter how much money you put on the table it doesn't give you the excuse not to do the right thing, which is cutting down your emissions, including not opening your coal mines," he said at the time.
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