Climate action and oceans realities for the Pacific have been the focus of a just-ended virtual tour of the region by the United Kingdom’s Minister for Pacific and the Environment, Lord Zak Goldsmith.
Yesterday Lord Goldsmith held a virtual regional roundtable discussion with the four largest regional organisations serving the Pacific- the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), the Pacific Community (SPC), the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP), and the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA).
The two-hour dialogue late Monday Fiji-time followed a week- long virtual dialogue ‘tour’ of the Pacific for Lord Goldsmith, who met with the governments of Fiji, Kiribati, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. He said the UK will put nature at the heart of the climate change discussion.
“For COP26 to be successful, it needs to be truly inclusive. The UK wants to ensure Large Ocean States have a platform, and the opportunity to shape the agenda. We want to make sure COP26 delivers important change, to finalise the Paris Agreement, to ramp up ambition and put that into action to limit global temperature rises,” Lord Goldsmith said.
Welcoming the opportunity for heads of Pacific regional organisations working on climate change and the ocean to meet with the UK Pacific Minister, Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor said the dialogue “was a valuable opportunity to reaffirm the Pacific region’s commitment to strong and ambitious climate action, as set out in the Kainaki II Declaration.”
“Of particular importance to the Blue Pacific Continent is the ocean-climate nexus. The ocean is central to everything we represent as a region. and a defining issue is the securing of our maritime boundaries in the face of sea level rise. The UK’s COP 26 presidency is a strategic opportunity for the Pacific and its people, and I am encouraged by Lord Goldsmith’s commitment to amplify Pacific issues and leadership at COP 26, to ensure Paris Agreement commitments are upheld,” she said.
Building on the high level Blue Pacific context, SPREP Director General, Kosi Latu, extended the focus on climate priorities including building regional resilience, climate financing as well as ensuring full implementation of the Paris Agreement, in line with the December 2020 date.
“The urgent need for climate action is heightened as COVID-19 increases our vulnerability. Momentum must continue – for us as a Pacific people, living on the frontlines of climate change, this is about our survival,” said Mr Kosi Latu, Director General of SPREP. “We are encouraged by the inclusive approach of the UK, as the COP26 Presidency, it allows our collective Pacific voice to be brought to the fore.”
The issues of maritime boundaries and sea level rise, as Pacific priorities for the 2nd UN Ocean Conference and the UN Decade for Ocean Science, were facilitated by SPC Director General Dr Stuart Minchin. “We all recognize that sea level rise will have an impact on a wide range of issues in the Pacific, including on the shorelines from which our maritime boundaries are defined” said SPC’s Director-General. “Working together on capturing, analysing and sharing reliable data on this issue will be essential in ensuring that our region is able to effectively manage and respond to the changing ocean environment.”
Dr Manu Tupou Roosen, Director General of the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, raised oceanic fisheries priorities and issues that are of critical importance for Pacific nations from both an economic and a sustainability perspective. Dr Tupou Roosen said “it’s important that Pacific nations, as custodians of the resources within our sovereign maritime domain, build strong relationships with global allies and champions.”
“Wherever we have the opportunity”, she said, “hard won gains in regional fisheries cooperation on key areas including rights-based management, and monitoring, control and surveillance efforts to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, must be leveraged to create enduring social and economic benefits for our people, especially as we look to manage climate change impacts on our shared fisheries resources and the flow on effects on fisheries revenues of small island developing states and territories in the region.” ‘I was delighted to attend a virtual roundtable with regional organisations in the Pacific. We had a wide-ranging and productive discussion on how to tackle climate change and protect our ocean. There can be no more important region to be engaging with on the climate-ocean nexus than the Pacific.”
Thanking the roundtable group for the exchange of views, Lord Goldsmith noted the “fantastic ambition and leadership on climate change,” at every stage of his virtual Pacific tour.
“That ambition and leadership, combined with being on the front line of climate change, and tackling its impacts, gives the Pacific a strong moral authority, which is encouraging other countries to raise ambition on climate change. We can’t solve climate change without restoring and protecting nature on a massive scale through cooperation.”