Climate tops Pacific leaders agenda–what it means to smaller Pacific states–Tuvalu
Of the three issues that dominated the 47th Pacific leaders forum this week in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), it is climate change that’s prioritized above all. This was especially important for one grouping within the Pacific Island Forum umbrella, the eight-member Smaller Island States (SIS) group.
Made up of Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu, their leaders had banked on primary climate change support from other Forum members to ensure climate change becomes more than just a science and physical issue, but that it becomes a development issue.
One that should be integrated into all government policies. This was one of the main reasons they endorsed in June 2016, the SIS Strategy 2016 – 2020 built specifically to give greater attention to the unique vulnerabilities of the SIS.
One of the unique vulnerabilities is detailed in Principle 1 (of three) of the SIS strategy: As large ocean states realizing and advancing the geo-political, security and natural resource capital opportunities, while recognizing the need to sustainably manage and maximise economic returns in the use and management of the Pacific’s ocean resources.
Tuvalu is one of the most vulnerable nations in the world to the impacts of climate change. And its leadership realized from an early stage that adaptation is not just about responding to specific impacts, but about creating resilience to a range of uncertainties. And that investing in the underlying capacity of its people and ecosystems is at the heart of sustainable adaptation.
They realized that sustainable development and climate solutions are closely linked. That sustainable development is quickly undermined if climate change impacts are not addressed. Failure to do so would lead to huge losses on investments.
It is why the SIS Strategy is an important integrating tool in Tuvalu’s vision and plans to safeguard its lands, seas and people to the growing threats of climate change, natural disasters and related economic and social hazards.
“The strategy provides an avenue for Tuvalu to identify regional work and capacities that could be integrated to the Tuvalu national efforts in the implementation of priorities identified in its National Development Plan, Te Kakeega III,” according to a formal advice from the Tuvalu delegation in FSM to Pacific Guardians.
“On climate change we emphasize the need for SIS to access Green Climate Fund (GCF) funding and regional cooperation to accessing climate financing.”
Tuvalu’s Prime Minister, Mr Enele Sopoaga played a major role in getting the aspirational goal of 1.5C into the Paris Agreement. He didn’t stay to see the agreement adopted in Paris last year, instead rushed back to make the Tuvalu parliament sitting and tell his people the good news.
Last week that ‘good news’ got even better when he heard China and the US had ratified the Agreement. His smile is a lot bigger seeing the world rising to the challenge of bringing the Paris Agreement into force much quicker than expected.
The Agreement, which was widely expected to come into force by 2020 at the earliest when it adopted in Paris, is now likely to become a legal international treaty by November this year, according to the Berlin watchdog group Climate Analytics.
As of 7 September, when Laos ratified the deal, the Paris Agreement had been ratified or otherwise officially accepted by 27 countries representing 39.1 percent of worldwide emissions, the majority of that from China (20.09) and the U.S. (17.89).
While on the sideline, at least 30 additional countries—including Brazil, Japan and New Zealand—have vowed to approve the deal by the end of the year. If so, those who have accepted the agreement would account for 59.9 percent of worldwide emissions.
New Zealand announced in August its commitment to ratifying the Agreement by the end of this year.
“The Paris agreement is historic and changed the way the world thinks about climate change. Ratifying it early reinforces our commitment to this deal and our support for the global momentum to grow with lower emissions,” Climate Change Minister, Mrs Paula Bennett said in a statement.
This is good news for Tuvalu according to its High Commissioner to New Zealand, HE Samuelu Laloniu.
“We need the Paris Agreement to come into force now and its implementation to progress speedily because for Tuvalu and low lying atolls, we are already suffering from climate and sea level rise,” HE Samuelu Laloniu told Pacific Guardians.
“Living with fear and uncertainty on a daily basis is not our normal way of life nor should it be anybody’s.”
Other priority issues pursued by Tuvalu at the 47th Pacific Islands Forum include:
“Labour mobility we’re calling for proper mapping of labour flows within the region to inform on opportunities and constraints within current regional labour mobility schemes.
“We also called for easier movement of skilled labour linked to regional disaster response and investment opportunities.”
Fisheries is recognized as a priority sector within the Framework for Pacific Regionalism and the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries.
“We emphasized the need to tackle Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported (IUU) fishing through expanded and innovative initiatives. We also noted the importance of Ocean as a stand alone Sustainable Development Goals.
“We also called for equitable and fair air service agreements and the need for a political dialogue amongst SIS leaders to address this issue. And recognize the need for the collective management of upper airspace to be clearly clarified to leaders in particular the benefits to SIS countries and the option of each country managing its own upper air space.
“We also recognized the need to address Non Communicable Diseases (NCD) in every aspect of development.”