Ministers demand action, not words at COP28

Pacific Ministers at COP28 (Photo: PINA)

In a panel discussion at COP28 Saturday, government ministers emphasized their priorities and the urgency of addressing critical issues such as climate change adaptation, loss and damage and climate finance. 

The panel featured Chris Bowen, Australian Climate Change Minister; Mona Ainu’u, Niue Minister for Natural Resources; Simon Watts, New Zealand Minister for Climate Change; and Gustav Aitaro, Palau’s Minister of State and Foreign Affairs. 

Watts highlighted New Zealand’s commitment to listening to Pacific concerns, acknowledging the region’s vulnerability to climate impacts. 

“The criticality and the need for action are recurring themes in our conversations. We are committed to the Netzero target by 2050, and now the focus is on the ‘how’—the actions, milestones, and timelines,” said Watts in the Australian Pavillion. 

He reiterated New Zealand’s commitment to the Pacific and the global community. 

Australian Climate Change Minister Chris Bowen stressed the importance of COP28, particularly the Global Stocktake (GST), as a key moment since the Paris Agreement.

Bowen questioned whether the stocktake would be a catalyst for action or a road to failure and emphasised the need to address fossil fuels’ role in the future. 

“If not now, when is it a road bump on the road to action?” he said.

He reported positive developments on Loss and Damage, with 138 countries pledging to triple renewable energy and double energy efficiency. 

Mona Ainu’u, Niue Minister for Natural Resources, spoke passionately about the Pacific’s plea for action. 

“We just want action. We are not sure how long we’ll be around.” 

“We can’t keep coming to COP for talk. Simplify financial processes, honour pledges—no more distractions, just help us,” urged Ainu’u. 

She expressed frustration with the lack of tangible progress, emphasising the urgency of the situation. 

“Walk the talk, meet us halfway; we need commitment to pledges made,” said Minister Ainu’u. 

Palau’s Minister of State and Foreign Affairs Gustav Aitaro reiterated the call for action over promises. 

“Every COP, we get progress, then setbacks. We need solutions, not just pledges. Loss and Damage is a significant impact for us,” said Aitaro. 

He thanked Australia, New Zealand, and CROP agencies for supporting the Pacific’s voice in international forums. 

During the panel, Tuvalu youth Naomi Maheu presented a 3D visual depicting Funafuti underwater due to sea level rise, emphasising the devastating impact on Tuvalu’s survival. 

“Reduce carbon emissions, honour Paris Agreement commitments. 

“Our land, survival, agriculture, food and water security, and culture are at stake. We need simpler access to climate finance for adaptation projects,” pleaded Maheu. 

The Pacific Ministers stressed the urgency of concrete action and results and urged the international community to prioritise practical measures over rhetoric. 

The Pacific aim to ensure their voices are heard and that concrete steps are taken to address the pressing challenges facing the region.