Climate change threatens Forum solidarity

Leaders of small island states in the Pacific met in Port Moresby today amidst concerns about a watered down regional position on climate change because of the strong lobbying from their bigger and wealthier members of Australia and New Zealand.

A senior official attending the small island states leaders’ summit told Islands Business that his country is unhappy about the draft Pacific Island Forum statement on climate change that is already in circulation among Forum delegates.

Yet to be released publicly, the document reportedly supports a 2 degrees temperate rise target, instead of the 1.5 degrees being advocated by small island states who are members of AOSIS, the Alliance of Small Island States 2 degrees is the preferred target of industrialised countries, of which Australia and New Zealand are members of. 

“We much prefer the string wordings on climate change as contained in the Suva Declaration of the Pacific Islands Development Forum summit that concluded in Suva, Fiji last week,” said this official who spoke on conditions of anonymity. “The Pacific Islands Forum on the other hand is advocating a 2 degrees target, which in our view is unacceptable and too watered down to satisfy the bigger members of the Forum.

“At this stage, we may have to push for a separate small island state position on climate change to take to COP 21 in Paris in December, quite apart and separate from the main Pacific Islands Forum position.”

Climate Change is one of only five issues on the agenda of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders that will meet here on Wednesday and Thursday this week. The other issues are fisheries and maritime surveillance, West Papua, Information Communications Technology and cervical cancer.

At the opening of the Forum’s Small Island State Leaders meeting at Languna Hotel in Waigani earlier today, outgoing chair of the SIS Leaders Summit, and President of Palau Tommy E Remengesau Junior called for solidarity among small island leaders in fighting climate change.

“Let us make our message in Paris a message that we can be proud to bring back to our people, one that will protect our environment and our cultural heritage. Our countries may be seen as small but we are in fact pioneers and trailblazers in restoring balance to our earth. We have set examples by choosing to act before it is too late, to stop the threats of illegal fishing and global overharvesting of the ocean’s resources through the creation of a large scale marine protected areas.”

President Remengensau handed over the chair to Tuvalu’s Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga.

Attending her first Forum and Small Island States Leaders’ Summit, Papua New Guinea national and Secretary General of the Forum, Dame Meg Taylor said small island states – all seven of them namely Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau and Tuvalu – are key members of the Pacific Islands Forum.

“We cannot afford not to place special attention on the SIS (Small Island States), if we are to reflect and better understand the real rewards of regionalism. The region stands to gain and learn from the special attention given to the smallest of our collective. Where this can be most evident is of course in our endeavour to tackle the devastating and indiscriminate impacts of climate change on the SIS.”

Niue’s Premier Toke Talangi was the only SIS Leader that was absent from their summit in PNG today. Kiribati’s President Anote Tong left soon after the opening statements with his officials explaining that he has to attend a bilateral with Forum host and soon to be the new Pacific Islands Forum chair, Peter O’Neill.

Tomorrow, the seven SIS of the Forum will be joined by their remaining seven Pacific island countries as members of the Pacific states of the ACP bloc of countries. The breakdown in negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union is expected to the main item on the agenda.