Bishop promises to use Australia’s influence to push for Pacific key positions

Two days before the global climate talk ends in Paris, Australia has assured the Pacific it will use its influence in the Umbrella Group to reiterate its support for the key negotiating positions of 14 Pacific Islands Forum countries.

The assurance was conveyed during a one hour dialogue led by Foreign Affairs Minister, Julie Bishop, on Wednesday morning with ministers from 12 of the 16 Forum Island Countries.

Australia is a key member of the Umbrella Group comprised of Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Kazakstan, Norway, Russian Federation, Ukraine and the United States.

At the roundtable dialogue, Pacific ministers that spoke did not back down from their collective negotiating positions of 1.5 degrees, loss and damage, simplified means of accessing climate financing and the special circumstances of Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS). They were united in their push that these must form the basis of the ambitious and legally binding agreement from the Paris conference.

Fiji’s Minister for Health, Jone Usamate referred to a recent report by the British Met Service that the global increase in temperature is likely to pass the 1.0 degree Celsius above pre-industrial level at the end of the year. 

“This is shocking. The fact that it is just around the corner and not 4-5 year from now means that the Paris Agreement should strongly reflect our push for 1.5 degrees. This scenario will have great impact on small island nations in our region like Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu, said Minister Usamate.

Fiji, he said, wants Australia to use its power and influence ‘not to close the door on discussion about compensation and liability’ in loss and damage, the absolute red line for richer and powerful countries like the United States.

“Whatever will come out of the final text, we hope that Australia will not close the door on discussions on compensation and liability,’ said the Fijian Minister.

Palau’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Olai Uludong reminded the Minister of the special circumstances and vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States.

“Our special circumstances does not need to be re-negotiated. The article is quite explicit on the special vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States.”

“We seek the help of Australia and the Umbrella Group to find a landing zone in the text for our push 1.5 degrees. We are asking that 1.5 and loss and damage find permanency in the agreement, said Ambassador Uludong.

Marshall Islands outgoing Foreign Affairs Minister, Tony de Brum talked about the difficulties of accessing climate financing.

“Most of the time, we find ourselves that when we get to the end of the line, the shop is closed on us and we get nothing. We absolutely need all these resources for climate change to be simplified so that we can address impacts of climate change.

Minister de Brum said small island nations will look to Fiji for support in accessing the Green Climate Funds (GCF).

“We hope to learn from those that have successfully accessed funds like Fiji to help us put together proposals for funding from GCF.”

Tuvalu’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Taukelina Finikaso reiterated the need for small island countries like Tuvalu to get funds to adapt now.

“The easier they make it for us, the better it is for us to adapt and protect ourselves from the impacts of climate change which is already causing suffering for our people, said Minister Finikaso.

Nauru’s lead minister in the negotiation, Charmaine Scotty said what is needed now two days before the end of the talks is ‘solidarity and transformative change’

“We seek the support of developed countries to recognise our vulnerabilities and provide adequate financing. Without an ambitious agreement in Paris, we will not be able to achieve our 17 goals I the 2030 Development Agenda.

“We want 1.5 degrees to be reflected and operationalized in the agreement, said Minister Scotty.

Minister Bishop in her conclusion said Australia has noted the united positions of the member countries of the Pacific Islands Forum and will use its power and influence within the Umbrella Group to reiterate the strong concerns of Pacific nations.

“As you all know, Australia supported the 2 degree goal but we recognise your push for the 1.5 goal. However, there is a potential compromise for loss and damage. The reality for us and other developed nations like the US is that compensation will not fly. The US is trying to find a landing zone on this issue.”

Minister Bishop promised the Pacific ministers she will do her best but reminded them that they must be mindful that Australia’s position may be different in some of the key asks from the Pacific.