Former Pacific leaders say the new Australian government needs to raise its climate action ambitions to regain trust in the region, which was eroded under a Coalition regime with a "deaf ear" to their concerns about global warming.
Ahead of next week's Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji, a group which includes ex-presidents are pushing the Albanese government to go further on cutting emissions - including accelerating the end of coal and gas.
Former Tuvalu president Enele Sopoaga has also taken aim at the former Coalition government, saying its attitudes to climate change fostered "mistrust" from nations for whom global warming poses an existential threat.
Mr Sopoaga traced the breakdown back to when now-Opposition Leader Peter Dutton was caught on a hot-mic joking about climate change in 2015.
He said the infamous "water lapping at your front door" remarks, which Mr Dutton made while standing next to then Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison, had emerged just after Australia and other Pacific nations made commitments ahead of the Paris climate conference.
"It was almost like a slap in the face," Mr Sopoaga this week said of Mr Dutton's comments.
"Unfortunately, that incident happened and crashed down all the trust that has existed amongst the leaders."
Mr Dutton later apologised for the comments.
The election of a new Australian government with a more ambitious climate agenda has been welcomed across the Pacific, where rising temperatures are considered the greatest environmental, economic and security threat.
But Labor will face pressure to go further, including on the 43 per cent 2030 emissions reduction target which it plans to legislate when parliament returns later this month.
The host of next week's forum in Suva, Fiji's Frank Bainimarama, has long advocated for a 50 per cent emissions cut this decade.
Ahead of the meeting, Pacific Elders' Voice - which includes Mr Sopoaga - have used a new Climate Council report to make the case for Australia to take stronger action.
Writing in the foreword to the report, the eight leaders said that without urgent cuts to global emissions their countries, particularly low-lying states, faced the "prospect of annihilation" as sea levels rise.
The leaders welcomed the new Australian government's position, describing its 2030 emissions target and pledge of new climate finance as "positive progress".
But they said more could be done.
"We will need to see more urgent actions - including accelerated efforts to move beyond coal and gas - to match the security threat we face," the foreword said.
The Albanese government has no plans to shut down fossil fuel production or exports, although the latest roadmap for the electricity market does predict a faster exit of coal in the next decade.
Ahead of the report's release on Friday, Mr Sopoaga said in order to "garner the trust" of Pacific Island nations, the new regime needed to show "higher ambition".
The report, titled A Fight for Survival: Tackling the climate crisis is key to security in the Blue Pacific, argued climate action must be front and centre if Australia wanted to position itself as the security partner of choice for Pacific nations.
China has embarked on a major push into the Pacific, striking a security pact with Solomon Islands before unsuccessfully trying to broker a region-wide deal.
"In a warming world, climate policy is foreign policy," Climate Council senior research Wesley Morgan said.
"Under the previous federal government, Australia's failure to act on climate change undermined our national security - nowhere is that more evident than the Pacific."
Dan covers federal politics from Parliament House, with a special focus on climate policy and the NDIS. He has previously reported on ACT politics and urban affairs since joining the Canberra Times in 2018.
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