Climate change not forgotten at China-Pacific Trade forum

While the focus was on trade, investment and economic cooperation, the Pacific Island’s did not forget about the looming threat of climate change this week.

At the 3rd China - Pacific Island Countries Economic Development and Cooperation Forum, the ten Pacific members made mention of their countries unique climate change challenges, and called on China to commit to being their ally at the international level.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi reiterated the region’s Boe Declaration signed last year, saying climate change is the greatest security and wellbeing threat to the Pacific.

“Leaders of the Pacific demand greater ambition from all States to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees under the Paris Agreement,” he said, addressing the Forum.

“We see China as the world’s second largest economy that can be an important ally for the Pacific region in the U.N.F.C.C.C. process by taking a lead in escalating its ambition level and its commitments under the Paris Agreement.

“This will be an important area for collaboration and genuine partnership between China and the Pacific region.” 

The U.N.F.C.C.C is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and is the body responsible for implementing the Paris Agreement, which has bound its 175 signatories to keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees.

They have each agreed to nationally determined contributions to that fight, and the Pacific leaders are urging nations to step up their contributions to do more on climate change.

For his part, Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua said China is looking to work with Pacific Island countries on climate change, and “ensure the effective enforcement of the Paris Agreement.”

Tonga’s Prime Minister Dr. Pohiva Tu’iioneatoa acknowledged China’s promotion of green and low carbon renewable energy under the Belt and Road initiative.

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“We need to band together as Pacific countries who are vulnerable victims to exert more influence on world powers,” he said.

“The harsh reality and devastating impacts of natural disasters is a priority for Tonga as the Kingdom is still recovering from the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Gita.

“Climate change not only remains a political issue for us but is an issue of survival.”

Pacific Island Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor said China presents a potential opportunity for progress on climate change action.

“To just meet our Paris targets is no longer enough – we need more ambition. 

“The Forum’s recent Kainaki II Declaration calls for all countries to enhance the ambition of their Nationally Determined Contributions especially in regard to carbon pricing, fossil fuel subsidies and a just transition from fossil fuels. 

“China, as the world’s second largest economy, can be an important ally for the Pacific region in the U.N.F.C.C.C process by taking a lead in escalating its ambition level and its commitments under the Paris Agreement – a valuable opportunity to demonstrate commitment to addressing our region’s greatest threat.”

Ralph Regenvanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs in Vanuatu wrote on Twitter that he had written to his Chinese Ambassador requestion China reduce emissions, and stop using and promoting coal.

“All PIF members should make the same direct request,” he said.

“Statements about ensuring effective enforcement of the Paris Agreement is quite a thing to say because the United States pulled out of the Paris Agreement,” Pacific Analyst Dr. Tess Newton Cain said.

“It could be seen as a bit of a barbed comment that ‘we are still in this with you though other people have pulled out.’”

She said it was “quite interesting” that China is positing itself as an ally in the U.N.F.C.C.C. process.

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