Australian PM Anthony Albanese announces partnership with Pacific nation of Tuvalu

Australian Prime Minister Antony Albanese announced a new partnership with the tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, at the Pacific Islands Forum this week in the Cook Islands. File photo by Mick Tsikas/EPA-EFE

Nov. 10 (UPI) -- Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addressed climate change and announced a new partnership with the small Pacific nation of Tuvalu, during the Pacific Islands Forum this week in the Cook Islands.

Albanese announced that Australia would contribute $350 million for climate infrastructure in the Pacific region.

"The Prime Minster's attendance at the Leaders' Meeting demonstrates Australia's commitment to deepening its engagement in the Pacific and addressing the shared challenges facing us all, including shaping a peaceful, stable and prosperous Pacific, and the impacts of climate change," the prime minister's office said in a statement Friday.

The Australian leader announced a new agreement with his Tuvaluan counterpart.

Albanese and the prime minister of Tuvalu, Kausea Natano, announced the bilateral agreement, called the Falepili Union, in response to a request from Tuvalu.

As part of the agreement, the Australian government has promised to create a "special mobility pathway" for citizens of the small Island Nation of Tuvalu, which faces an existential threat from rising ocean levels.

Additionally, the Australian government has pledged "to provide assistance to Tuvalu in response to a major natural disaster, health pandemics and military aggression."

"Australia deeply values our membership of the Pacific Islands Forum, and I thank Cook Islands and Prime Minister the Hon. Mark Brown for being such generous and welcoming hosts," Albanese said at the forum.

The Australian Prime Minister acknowledged the threat of climate change to Pacific nations.

"We recognize the climate crisis is the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security, and wellbeing of people in the Pacific," Albanese continued, "Australia is committed to enduring partnerships in the region."

Tuvalu, which has a population of about 11,000, announced last year that it was exploring the possibility of creating a digital twin of itself in case of a "worst case scenario."

Justice Minister Simon Kofe announced the plan via a video address to the COP27 climate summit.

"The tragedy of this outcome cannot be overstated," said Kofe, "Tuvalu could be the first country in the world to exist solely in cyberspace."