Thu, 21 Jan 2021

Men in hula skirts perform at Nanuku Auberge Resort in Fiji, July 21, 2020. (Xinhua/Zhang Yongxing)

Pacific island nations' leaders reaffirmed climate change as the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific and renewed their commitment to progress the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

SUVA, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- As victims of climate change, the small island nations in the Pacific region have for years called for more and urgent actions to be taken by the world to better fight climate change.

The Pacific region has been facing the impacts of climate change and disasters such as cyclones, floods and droughts. Sea level rise and ocean acidification are taking their toll on the health and wellbeing of the peoples, environment and economies in the region.

Leaders of the Pacific island countries have at their last meeting endorsed the development of a 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, while acknowledging the need for urgent and immediate actions against the threats and challenges of climate change.

The leaders reaffirmed climate change as the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific and renewed their commitment to progress the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

"As leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), custodians of the world's largest ocean and carbon sink, and representatives of our Pacific peoples, we call for immediate action and not just discussion of ambition," the leaders said in the PIF communique.

"Action must be taken in our region, and internationally, to support clean, healthy, and productive oceans, the sustainable management, use and conservation of marine resources, growth in the blue economy and address the impacts of climate change on ocean health," they added.

Fiji, with a population of around 900,000, is one of the victims of climate change. Since 1993, Fiji has recorded a 6 mm increase in its sea level per year, higher than the global average and villages have been relocated as a result of rising sea levels.

According to Fiji's National Climate Change Policy, global sea level changes will more than double by the end of the century.

Fiji is the first country to ratify the Paris Agreement as well as the first small island state to lead the climate negotiations as Fiji held the presidency of the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP23). Now Fiji is among the nations committed to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Addressing the virtual PIF high-level roundtable on urgent climate change action earlier this month, Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama urged world leaders to act in the fight against climate change.

"We all signed the Paris Agreement. Now let's insist that we put it to work. I urge all world leaders to act. Act for all of us. Act for our future. Act for our children and grandchildren," he said.

He pointed out that five years on from the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) and the Paris Agreement, the world is still warming at an astonishing rate.

"This is not just Fiji's climate emergency, it is the world's emergency ... We all depend on each other. Climate complacency by one will harm all others," said the prime minister.

He said more consistent and aggressive actions are needed across the world, and all nations should find ways to do more than they ever thought possible. All parties must submit ambitious mid-century targets for achieving net-zero global emissions.

At this year's virtual United Nations' high-level roundtable on climate change in Suva, Bainimarama said that speeches will not save the world and neither will nice tweets or photo-opportunities, and that the only expectation is action.

"If we don't win the race to net-zero emissions, we are headed for 3 or 4 degrees of global warming -- an Earth we will not recognize and a climate we cannot survive... From here on out, our only expectation is action. We need solidarity we can feel; reductions in emissions we can measure, and resources vulnerable nations can afford to access now," he said.

The prime minister said world leaders must view post-pandemic recoveries through the lens of opportunity, heed what the market is telling them, harness renewables, and return people to work in green and blue industries. Governments and the private sector must lead a transparent transition to a more climate-resilient financial sector.

Fiji has recently vowed to continue to champion evidence-based action in leading other vulnerable nations in the fight against climate change.

Like Fji, Samoa, an island nation with a population of around 200,000, is also a victim of climate change.

Samoa's Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has said no one country, or a single group of nations, and no single organization can solely win the war against climate change, a societal problem requiring a decisive global response.

He added that united, the international community can do a great deal to arrest and even reverse the threat of climate change.■

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