Pacific states pressure G20 on climate change

Pacific Small Island Developing States have urged G20 countries to reaffirm their commitment to the Paris climate agreement.

Following this week's Climate Action Pacific Partnership (CAPP) event in Fiji, 12 Pacific states called for action from the world's most powerful nations attending this weekend's G20 summit in Germany.

Describing themselves as being on the front line of climate change, the Pacific states expressed deep concern that the United States government had indicated its intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and urged the US to reconsider.

They said current global warming of just over one degree celsius was already causing serious consequences for the Pacific region and that concerted action was needed to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial level.

That objective requires net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to Pacific states, who also called for action from the United Nations.

The states want the UN Secretary-General to appoint a Special Representative on Climate Change and Security, and for the UN Security Council to make climate change and security a permanent agenda item.

The Fiji meeting was a prelude to November's COP23 UN climate talks in Bonn for which Fiji is the president.

Fiji's prime minister Frank Bainimarama told the CAPP event in Suva that industrialised G20 nations were responsible for global warming.

"We have not caused this crisis, your nations have ... the vulnerable nations expect you to meet ... climate action commitments you have already made," he said.

"But we also ask you to go a lot further ... to deal effectively with the scale of the crisis the world is facing."

Mr Bainimarama asked Australia and New Zealand to work side by side with Pacific nations to persuade the world to tackle the causes of global warming.

He also said people who left Tuvalu and Kiribati due to climate change would be allowed to settle permanently in Fiji.

An action document that would shape the COP23 agenda was not released at the close of the CAPP meeting, according to the Fiji Times, as it needed to be ratified by stakeholders within the next 14 days.

However, the vulnerability of the Pacific's agricultural sector to climate change was expected to be at the top of the list.

A global moratorium on new coal mines could also be discussed in Bonn, according to an alliance of 55 Pacific civil society groups, the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN).

PICAN coordinator Krishneil Narayan said Pacific leaders who attended a talanoa, or discussion, at the CAPP talks, supported such a moratorium being debated at the COP23 meeting.

"And what PICAN is going to do now is work with the COP23 presidential secretariat in organising a platform for the global dialogue to happen in Bonn," he said.

The moratorium was championed at the CAPP talks by Australian economist Roderick Campbell, who said it would support workers in existing coal mines while facilitating a gradual transition of the economy.

"The largest coal producer in the world - China - has already implemented a moratorium on new coal mines," said Mr Campbell.

"Fiji has a chance to take such policies to the world at COP23."


Photo: Supplied Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama aboard a drua - a Fijian ocean-going canoe with the leaders of two of the most climate-vulnerable Pacific nations - President Taneti Maamau of Kiribati and Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga of Tuvalu.