By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor in Funafuti
After a marathon meeting, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders have issued a communique and a climate change declaration with qualifications in Tuvalu
Chairman of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Summit, Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga of Tuvalu was particularly happy with the affirmation of declaration on climate change for the survival of Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS).
“The Forum leaders agreed with no brackets on the declaration for climate change. It’s quite an outcome and we are happy that we have the endorsement from members with qualification.
Admitting that Australia was the only member to make a qualification, Prime Minister Sopoaga said the communique still reflected the language used in Nauru last year.
“I think we can say that we should have done more work for our people but it’s a matter for our people to reflect more. I seek the respect and understanding of the Pacific people on the outcome which is really a negotiated outcome and still contains some references to the United Nations Secretary General’s message to accelerate actions against climate change and that’s the way forward. It provides a basis for stronger Pacific presentation in New York and we have to live with that.
Sopoaga said the SIS climate change declaration was endorsed in full. A number of Forum members have said they will not sign up to document they did not negotiate.
“It is there and the language will never change and not a single t or comma was taken out. That was the ultimate objective.
“We can work together as a Forum family by coming here in this location, the Kainaki Rua, where we have the ocean and the lagoon on the other side which further amplifies the extreme vulnerability of Tuvalu. I am sure Leaders have taken note of this and are focused on the survival of the Pacific. We ask please understand this – our people are dying,” said Sopoaga.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison held a different view on the two outcome statements from the Forum Leaders Retreat.
“We worked through issues in a spirit of commitment. It commits us to realise that here in the Pacific, the impact of climate change and rising sea level is real and happening to them right now and has been for some time, so the actions and directions that are set out in both those documents speak about commitments to address those issues.
“It’s a general statement and what that means is that what the Smaller Island States (SIS) agree to is not binding on the rest of the members.
The Australian leader, who many speculated was isolated during the Leaders Retreat, denied being left out by the group
“No Australia was not isolated at all. We agreed to our communique and the Smaller Island States statement was exactly the same as what was agreed to in Nauru last year.
The Australian leader praised his New Zealand counterpart, Jacinda Ardern for the way she worked with Pacific leaders at the Retreat.
“We don’t always have to agree and but when we disagree we do it well. I am all for lively debate and discussion. We’ve got to learn to disagree better, showing respect to one another as we did last night, showing respect to the existential challenges that faces our region.”
Australia, Morrison said is here in the region to stay and it is committed to supporting its ‘family’ in the Pacific.
“What we are doing is we want to want to help our family in the Pacific with resilience challenges of climate change. We are just going to do that directly and get on with it. We’ll do it quicker, we’ll do it better and we will do it with greater partnerships.
“I am accountable to the Australian public and I came here with a very strong record to demonstrate what we have done to turn our situation to reduce our emissions to meet our 2030 target.
He revealed that Australia has invested AUD$500 million (US$339 million) this financial year, which includes AUD$200(US$135 million) million through the Global Climate Fund. “That money is going into serious resilience work right across the world particularly the Pacific. And what we are doing at the end of this financial year is putting down another AUD$500 million and that is going here in the Pacific to address resilience. That is big commitment,” Morrison told journalists after the Retreat after 10pm Thursday night.
The Australian PM maintains the reliance on coal to provide energy is falling.
“That is expected to continue to happen as the economy goes through a transition, not just in the next ten years, 20 and 30 years. What Australia has done in the last six years is that it has taken what was a 700 million tonne deficit in what we were expecting in 2020 in our projection of carbon emission and turned that around in a AUD$300 million (US$203 million) surplus. So Australia’s action on climate change has produced a more than 1 billion tonne turn around on carbon emission,” said Morrison