United Kingdom commends Pacific climate ambition

By Tina Mata'afa-Tufele 05 September 2020, 9:00AM

The United Kingdom’s (U.K.) Minister for the Pacific, Lord Zac Goldsmith, commended Pacific states’ leadership on climate change and supported emissions reduction targets in meetings with regional leaders this week. 

Lord Goldsmith spoke to leaders from Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and other countries during an eight-day virtual visit this week.

“I have seen fantastic ambition and leadership on climate change. That ambition and leadership, combined with being on the front line of climate change, and tackling these impacts, gives the Pacific a strong moral authority that is inspiring other countries to raise ambition for climate action,” Lord Goldsmith said, according to a statement from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

“The U.K. will put nature at the heart of the climate change discussion.

“We can’t solve climate change without restoring and protecting nature on a massive scale.”

Lord Goldsmith, who is also Minister for the Environment, said that the United Kingdom hoped to ensure that states in the region had input into the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference and to ensure that the summit effects change. 

(The conference will be held under the U.K.’s presidency and held in Glasgow, Scotland in November next year). 

“[We want] to finalise the Paris Agreement, to ramp up ambition and put that into action to limit global temperature rises to well below [two] degrees Celsius,” he said. 

In the course of Lord Goldsmith’s virtual Pacific ‘tour’, he met with senior Government leaders but also multilateral and non-Government institutions. 

The Minister took part in a round table with heads of Pacific regional organisations – the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (P.I.F.S.), the Pacific Community (S.P.C.), the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Program (S.P.R.E.P.), and the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency (P.I.F.F.A.).

P.I.F.S. Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor described the dialogue with the U.K. as “a valuable opportunity to reaffirm the Pacific region’s commitment to strong and ambitious climate action, as set out in the Kainaki II Declaration.”

Issued last year by the P.I.F.S., the declaration has been described as the most assertive international statement on climate change by region. It calls on members of the Group of 7 and Group of 20 nations to phase out their support for the fossil fuel industry and to support measures to better prepare the Pacific for the effects of climate change, including support of local scientific initiatives. 

The declaration also calls for wealthier nations to help lay the groundwork to meet emissions-reduction targets made under 2016 the Paris Agreement, to which 195 nations were signatories. 

“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,” Dame Meg said in an S.P.C. statement. 

“The UK’s [conference] 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 [the conference], to ensure Paris Agreement commitments are upheld.”

S.P.R.E.P.’s Director General, Leota Kosi Latu, said the focus on climate priorities included building regional resilience, climate financing and ensuring implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Climate change and the ocean were the recurring themes throughout the visit in recognition of their unique significance to the region, the British High Commission said.

“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,” Leota said.

“We are encouraged by the inclusive approach of the U.K. as the COP26 Presidency, it allows our collective Pacific voice to be brought to the fore.” 

S.P.C. Director General Dr. Stuart Minchin said: “We all recognise that sea level [rises] will have an impact on a wide range of issues in the Pacific, including on the shorelines from which our maritime boundaries are defined.”

“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.”

The Forum Fisheries Agency Director-General, Dr. Manu Tupou Roosen, said oceanic fisheries issues were of critical importance to the Pacific both in terms of economic and food security. 

That made it imperative that Pacific states build strong relationships with global allies and champions, Dr. Roosen 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,” Dr. Rosen said.

Lord Goldsmith said “we need the Pacific” and that the role of nature and nature-based solutions would be prioritised through the U.K.’s presidency of the climate summit.

Among the U.K.’s foremost climate policy initiatives are a £500m Blue Planet Fund dedicated to ocean protection and a global Global Ocean Alliance to build momentum to extend sustainability protections to 30 per cent of the world’s oceans by 2030.

By Tina Mata'afa-Tufele 05 September 2020, 9:00AM

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