Pacific leaders endorse climate-action declaration


Fri 06 Sep 2013

Marshall Islands
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MAJURO, Marshall Islands ---Fourteen Pacific leaders, including those of Australia and New Zealand, agreed in Majuro Thursday to “demonstrate climate leadership through action that contributes to the urgent reduction and phase out of greenhouse-gas pollution.”

The Majuro Declaration is light on details, but will be presented to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the General Assembly later this month in New York by Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak to “contribute to his efforts to catalyze ambitious climate action and mobilize political will for a legally binding climate-change agreement by 2015.”

Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr., whose country was chosen to host next year’s annual Pacific Islands Forum summit, said “in the true spirit of Pacific culture, we don’t use harsh words or demands” in the call for climate action. “But the issue is about our very survival and sustainability as a people.”

Although the level of greenhouse-gas emissions from sparsely populated Pacific islands is miniscule, island leaders this week in Majuro continuously talked about their domestic agendas for shifting away from fossil-fuel power to renewable energy while challenging developed nations to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

“We have got to do things within our own domestic capacity to adapt to climate change and to better engage our partners,” Remengesau said.

Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga, whose atoll nation of 11,000 is under threat from rising sea levels, has been forcefully demanding action to cut emissions. After the leaders adopted the call for climate action Thursday, Sopoaga said, “I feel a little bit happy, but I want to see the Majuro Declaration received at the highest level of the United Nations so that we can come up with a legally binding framework in 2015.”

In other major actions, Forum leaders are expected to invite Fiji to rejoin the organization after elections are held next September, the first since a military coup in 2009 toppled a democratically elected government.

“All Forum leaders very much look forward to bringing Fiji back to the Forum family (after elections in 2014),” said Forum Secretary General Tuiloma Neroni Slade.

Cuba was invited to become the 15th Forum dialogue partner, while a decision on accepting Spain was deferred to next year’s Forum.

The leaders also endorsed a U.N. Special Rapporteur’s report on nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands that calls on the United States government to pay over $2 billion in awards to nuclear-affected islanders. The U.S. and United Nations “have ongoing obligations to encourage a final and just resolution for Marshallese,” said the communiqué issued Thursday.

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