Scott Morrison, Australian PM says his country had nothing to apologise for over climate change as he told the United Nations General Assembly that his government would lead urgent action to combat plastic pollution choking the oceans. In his first address to the UN General Assembly in New York early on Thursday (AEST) the Prime Minister said Australia would particularly help Pacific island nations fight plastics pollution and illegal fishing which was damaging their environment and economies.

He said that Australia was committed to leading urgent action to combat plastic pollution choking our oceans; to tackling over-exploitation of our fisheries, preventing ocean habitat destruction and taking action on climate change.

On his visit to the United States and the UN, Mr Morrison has concentrated heavily on plastics pollution and waste recycling to protect the environment and said environmental challenges were not just climate change. His comments coincided with the release of a special report on the ocean and cryosphere for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that said major ­uncertainties remained on how much melting ice, particularly in Antarctica, would lift sea levels over coming centuries. The worst-case scenario for sea level rise by 2100 was increased by 10cm to between 60cm and 110cm if greenhouse gas emissions were left unchecked.

As seas rose, what were now once-in-a-century extreme ­coastal floods could be expected at least once a year by the middle of this century, the report said. Mr Morrison, who attended the opening of the Australian-owned Pratt Industries paper plant in Ohio and visited the biggest waste recycling plant in the US, in Brooklyn, also Australian owned, said waste replying should become a commercially viable industry cleaning the environment and providing jobs.

Before addressing the UN Mr Morrison said that Australia had a strong track record on delivery and that there were very few countries who were members of the UN who would also be able to stand at the podium and talk about beating their Kyoto commitments by 367 million tonnes. He pointed out that Australia had nothing at all to apologise for and everything to commend the action that they were taking.

In the General Assembly Mr Morrison said he wanted to concentrate his address on Australia’s response to today’s great global environmental challenges.

He said that protecting the oceans was one of the world’s more pressing environmental challenges. Scientists estimate that in just 30 years’ time the weight of plastics in our oceans will exceed the weight of fish.

He also recently announced that Australia would ban exports of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres, starting in 2020 – circa 1.4 million tonnes of potent recyclable material. Australia also leads on practical research and development into recycling — turning recycled plastic and glass waste into roads, manufacturing 100% recycled PET bottles and capturing methane and waste to create energy.

New technologies are coming on line with the potential to recycle used plastics into valuable new plastics — creating a circular plastics economy. Mr Morrison said that Australia would invest $167m in an Australian Recycling Investment Plan to create the right investment environment so that new technologies are commercialised — preventing pollution entering our oceans, and creating valuable new products.

Industry led mechanisms for investing in new recycling technologies and mitigating plastic waste in rivers, beaches and oceans on a global scale are essential. Mr Morrison has identified environmental threats in the Pacific as a “clear and present danger” that is not only climate change.