Pacific Island national leaders declare climate emergency
Pacific island national leaders declared a climate emergency on Friday and agreed to try to bring Kiribati back into the region’s main diplomatic grouping.
Kiribati announced it had withdrawn from the 18-member Pacific Islands Forum ahead of the leaders’ summit in Fiji this week. The move was seen as a sign of China’s growing influence in the region.
In a statement to be released soon, the leaders “welcomed and fully supported” the new Australian government’s commitment to the forum’s climate change priorities, the Australian Associated Press reported after viewing the document.
Australia, the wealthiest and most populous of the nations in the forum, has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 43% below 2005 levels by the end of the decade under a new government elected in May.
The previous Australian government had committed to reductions of just 26% to 28% by 2030.
Another clause of the statement ostensibly urges all nations in the forum to make “clear progress in turning pledges and commitments into action” in keeping with bringing global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit). Australia’s current targets of 43% reduction by 2030 and net zero by 2050 fall short of this aspiration.
Leaders, many of whom face an existential threat from a warming planet, see climate change as their biggest security risk and have declared a climate emergency.
Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who chaired the summit, took to Twitter to urge Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to take further action.
“Australia’s new climate pledge is a breakthrough that Fiji has long sought – but out of a duty to every young person in the Pacific, I have urged @AlboMP to go further for our family’s shared future aligning Australia’s commitment with the 1.5-degree target,” Bainimarama posted.
Pacific unity was another key issue for the leaders, reinforced by the withdrawal from Kiribati.
Australia and New Zealand will fund the Suva Accord, which reforms the forum and new diplomatic efforts to bring Kiribati home.
Although China is not named in the statement, its growing influence in the region has been the subject of much discussion among the leaders.
The United States, Australia and New Zealand have been among the strongest critics of a security pact signed between China and the Solomon Islands, host of the forum’s annual leaders’ summit next year.
Details of the pact have not been made public, but the deal has raised fears of a permanent Chinese military installation within 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) of Australia’s northeast coast.
Australia already has a security treaty with the Solomons and Australian police have been in the capital, Honiara, to keep the peace since riots late last year.
Australia has argued that the family of forum nations should manage their own security issues instead of looking to foreigners such as China. The statement appeared to support this view with a commitment to “family first” security in the Pacific.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said on Thursday that his country’s new security pact would not allow China to build a military base in his country and make its citizens “targets for potential military strikes.” “. The forum’s dialogue partners – including the United States, China, Britain and France – had not been invited to this year’s summit in Fiji’s capital, Suva.
But Bainimarama invited U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris to deliver a virtual speech on Wednesday, in which she offered to increase U.S. diplomatic engagement and financial assistance.
Two Chinese embassy defense attachés watching Harris’ speech from media seats were spotted by a reporter and reported to police. Police asked them to leave, The Guardian reported.
During Harris’ speech, a Chinese official in Beijing said his government welcomes more support from others to help develop and revitalize the Pacific islands. But the official warned that such efforts should not be undertaken to counter China.
The Solomon Islands and Kiribati recently transferred their diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing.
(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)