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PIF: Climate change top issue for Pacific leaders, awaiting funding boost

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Leaders who attended the 2010 Pacific Islands Forum in Port Vila, Vanuatu, donn their flash shirts at the conclusion of the leaders summit talks. (Photo by Josephine Latu.)

Pacific Scoop:

This week’s Pacific Island Forum (PIF) highlighted climate change as a key concern for the region, calling for a binding pact on the issue at the global level.

In the lead up to the world summit in Cancun, Pacific leaders will maintain talks at the “highest level”, with a major regional meet to take place in Kiribati this November.

“Climate change remains the greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific,” stated an 81 point communiqué from the forum, released yesterday after a leaders’ retreat at the Havannah Resort in Vanuatu.

“A meaningful legally binding agreement on emissions reductions must be reached urgently and without delay”.

Progress towards the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) under the Cairns Compact, as well as the Pacific Plan, sustainable fishing, support for people with disabilities, regional trade as well as continued dialogue with the estranged military regime in Fiji were also high on the PIF agenda.

Australian foreign minister Stephen Smith, standing in for Prime Minister Julia Gillard, said that the forum leaders “spent a considerable amount of time” discussing climate change issues and financing.

Smith added that he was “pleased with the outcome” – his government has allocated a budget for climate change mitigation and adaptation to be distributed in 2010 to 2013.

The issue was previously highlighted at the Small Island States (SIS) meeting earlier in the week, where PIF Secretary General Tuiloma Neroni Slade expressed disappointment in last year’s global summit in Copenhagen. No binding agreement was achieved to reduce CO2 emissions, although the world’s highest emitters pledged USD 30 billion to help developing countries tackle the effects of climate change.

The SIS says they have seen little of these promised funds.

PIF Chair and Prime Minister of Vanuatu Edward Natapei called for a more united stance amongst forum countries on the climate change agenda.

“There is a lack of spirit of partnership and common endeavour on these regional platforms. Consequently, we might have missed an opportunity in Copenhagen to commit states to a binding target… For such a critical issue as climate change, our cause is better served when we remain as a group and front up the international community with a common strategy,” he announced at the forum’s opening ceremony.

The forum is now focusing on the next Conference of Parties meeting (COP16) to be held in Cancun Mexico late this year. Meanwhile, their communiqué stated that more focus will be placed on mainstreaming climate change efforts on the national level with transparent country-led plans and systems.

Josephine Latu is reporting for Pacific Scoop at the 2010 Pacific Islands Forum in Port Vila, Vanuatu.