Pacific ministers call for fossil fuel free Pacific

An ambitious and historical call to action for a fossil fuel free Pacific was endorsed Friday in Port Vila – demanding a phase out of fossil fuel production from major economies that continue to produce coal, oil and gas.

The Port Vila Call for a Just Transition to a Fossil Fuel Free Pacific strongly puts the blame on countries producing fossil fuel for causing the climate crisis that many Pacific countries are struggling with. 

“We are appalled by the fossil duel driven consequences of the unprecedented two category 4 cyclones striking Vanuatu within four days. This is just the most recent example of the extensive and ongoing fossil fuel induced loss and damage suffered by the people and communities of Pacific Islands, said the Ministers in the preamble to the call to action. 

Vanuatu’s Minister for Climate Change and co-convener of the ministerial dialogue, Ralph Regenvanu said its unacceptable that countries and companies are still planning on producing more than double the amount of fossil fuels by 2030. 

“Yes we pushed for that strong language. It’s very important that it is used because we have reached a stage where diplomacy has failed us and we have not seen the slowing down or halting of fossil fuel production around the world.  Many countries will say they support climate change action while continuing to open new fossil fuel production.  

“It’s time to speak plainly and directly that it is not acceptable to sign up to the Paris Agreement and say that you are serious about climate action, when in fact you continue to do the opposite, Minister Regenvanu told PACNEWS in Port Vila. 

During the dialogue Ministers agreed to use bilateral and other diplomatic channels to push Australia to phase out fossil fuel production. 

“It’s very disappointing. Australia signed the Boe Declaration which declared climate change as the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific. The fact that they continue to subsidise as well as promote new fossil fuel projects is not really acceptable to us. I told the minister of climate change of Australia at COP27 that we hope that they would reconsider many of their plans for fossil fuel production. We are asking not just for a phase out fossil fuel but to stop new projects and stop subsidising any new projects. These are clear demand that the Pacific needs to make of Australia, said Minister Regenvanu. 

One of the entry points of discussion with Australia is to push and demand the call for a fossil fuel free Pacific – if Canberra wants the support of the Pacific to host the UN climate change conference in four years’ time. 

“We are raising it here in the Port Vila call to action. We will be taking this forward to other major regional meetings in the region in the coming months, including the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in October this year, said the Vanuatu climate change minister. 

The ministers said the Pacific will no longer accept the fossil fuel lie – and will muster support regionally and globally to bring this to pass. 

“We have the power and responsibility to lead and we will. Pacific Leaders called for the Paris Agreement to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and we will demand an end to the development and expansion of fossil fuel extracting industries, starting with new coal mines, said the preamble of the Call to action. 

To drive the fossil free pathways in the Port Vila Call – a new Pacific Energy Commissioner for a Just Transition to a fossil fuel free Pacific will be appointed supported by senior officials and technical experts to be formalised and endorsed by Pacific Island Forum Leaders in October 2023. 

Minister Regenvanu is optimistic that more Pacific countries will join the proposed Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty pushed for by Vanuatu and Tuvalu. 

“Already one country has joined, Tonga, during this ministerial meeting. I believe others will join in the next few months, said Regenvanu.  

Responding to the historical Port Vila ministerial call to action, Lavetanalagi Seru, Regional Policy Coordinator at Pacific Islands Climate Action Network, said: “As Pacific leaders shoulder the burden of climate leadership, the “Port Vila Call for a Just Transition to a Fossil Fuel Free Pacific” is a reminder that despite the doom and gloom, another world is possible, a fossil-fuel free world, that is just, equitable, and sustainable. The phase-out of fossil fuels is not only a challenge, but an opportunity to promote economic development and innovation in the Pacific region. This Ministerial Dialogue has been an opportunity for the Pacific to envision what a just transition means in a Pacific Island context, whilst calling for greater and stronger ambition.” 

Samoan climate justice activist, Brianna Fruean, said: “International climate negotiations are failing us. This dialogue of Pacific Ministers is stepping outside of the box and acknowledging that we must try new ways to save ourselves – and that is going to require a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

“While the guilty continue to reap profit off the expansion of fossil fuels behind our backs, the meeting is bringing renewed energy to Pacific leadership that will not just echo across our islands but drive action with our allies globally, said Fruean. 

Tzeporah Berman, Chair of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, said: “Today Pacific Island nations have once again led to redefine climate leadership by challenging the root cause of the climate crisis oil, gas and coal. They have had the courage to confront the lies of the fossil fuel industry and challenge the ruse of climate action that includes new fossil fuel projects. This is as a historic meeting that will have far reaching consequences. 

Ministers from Fiji, Niue, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu and Tuvalu signed the Port Vila Call for a Just Transition to a Fossil Fuel Free Pacific. A senior diplomat from the Republic of Marshall Islands was part of the ministerial dialogue and was waiting for endorsement from the capital Majuro to sign off on the document.