Australia fires: Prime minister defends climate policy after Greta Thunberg criticism | News | DW | 23.12.2019
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Australia fires: Prime minister defends climate policy after Greta Thunberg criticism

Following criticism of his climate policy by climate activist Greta Thunberg, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said "I'm not here to impress people overseas." Over 200 fires are still raging across Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended Australia's climate policy and coal industry on Monday as 200 wildfires raged on with little sign of abating.

His words come a day after teen Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg condemned the lack of political action by the Australian government.

"We still fail to make the connection between the climate crisis and increasedextreme weather events and natural disasters," Thunberg wrote on Twitter.

"We'll do in Australia what we think is right for Australia," Morrison said in response on Monday. "I'm not here to try to impress people overseas."

Morrison also refused to consider downsizing Australia's coal industry in a speech on Monday.

Scott Morrison visits volunteer fire and rescue workers (Reuters/AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

Scott Morrison visits volunteer fire and rescue workers

"I am not going to write off the jobs of thousands of Australians by walking away from traditional industries," he told Australian broadcaster Channel Seven.

The conservative Liberal party leader was criticized for taking a family vacation to Hawaii amid the ongoing wildfire catastrophe, that he eventually cut short over the weekend.

"We all make decisions," he said on Monday, justifying his vacation. "You do as a parent, I do as a parent. We'll seek to balance our work-life responsibilities and we all try to get that right."

Morrison: 'I never panic'

There appears to be little let-up on the horizon for the ongoing fires, 60 of which are currently uncontained, although in recent days firefighters have managed to contain some more fires. Typically, bush fires in Australia reach their zenith later in the summer, in January and February.

"We've got to keep in mind that we're not expecting any rainfall to make any meaningful difference to these fires until January or February,'' warned New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons on Monday.

"That's still a way to go. We're still talking four to six weeks at best before we start to see a meaningful reprieve in the weather.''

30,000 square kilometers of land and over 900 homes have been destroyed in the last few months, with at least nine people killed. 

Morrison has faced pressure at home, including from the junior partners in his coalition, to do more to combat climate change. However, he's resisted the idea that changing energy policy would have had any impact on this year's fires, and is arguing against more reactionary policy changes.

"I never panic. I don't think panicking is the way to manage anything," Morrison said on Monday.

Watch video 05:49

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ed/msh (dpa, AP, AFP)

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