Letter to the Pacific Islands Forum

We, Pacific Elders from across the Blue Pacific send you our warm greetings and write to you with sentiments of goodwill and best wishes on your leadership of this august body.

We understand that in your capacity as the Chair, you took time out to attend the UNFCCC COP26, recently completed in Glasgow, and provided valuable support to the Pacific Island countries as well as the other SIDS. We thank you for your sacrifices and for participating at COP26, notwithstanding the challenges and during a time when many leaders from the Pacific could not travel.

We have followed the various commentaries and statements in relation to the COP26 outcomes and share the general sentiment that these were weaker that what we, in the Pacific, would have liked given the serious threat climate change poses to our lands and livelihoods.

We are particularly concerned with the stance of Australia in the recent climate change discussions, especially its unwillingness to support major initiatives such as reducing methane emissions, phase out of coal and elimination of subsidies on fossil fuel industries. These actions do not align with the findings of the reputable IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report.

We are disappointed that there seems no new additional support by Australia for Loss & Damage, an issue very dear to the PICs, or for adaptation which is the number one priority for vulnerable PSIDS. Also, Australia’s lack of support to the GCF, which it had earlier co-chaired, sends a negative signal about its attitude towards climate finance, especially for the island nations.

This is in spite of the usual claims of being part of the ‘Pacific family’ and of course an important member of the Forum. Australia is a signatory to all PIFS Declarations, including the Kainaki Declaration on fossil fuels adopted at the Tuvalu summit.

We are of the view that the PIFS need to write formally to Australia and make our position clear on our expectations of Australia, as part of PIF, to show greater commitment, empathy and support for this important development issue for all the small islands of the Pacific.

We need to continuously advocate and canvass support for climate change which poses an existential threat to some of our countries, especially the atoll nations. This could be done using a variety of platforms, such as the PSIDS grouping, or the Small Island State (SIS) subgroup within the PIF, which could be strengthened to ensure that they are able to undertake this important role in climate change. There is always the option to form a new grouping that only includes Pacific Island countries in the event the existing arrangements are deemed inadequate.

We welcome the designation of Ministers from the Pacific as ‘champions’ on specific issues, and suggest that they are strongly supported with robust technical inputs from the CROP agencies and other regional experts. It is important that we develop training programmes to support our climate champions so that they are able to engage fully in climate change negotiations. This would strengthen our positions at international negotiations and lead to stronger outcomes on important issues for the Pacific.

We pray for your wisdom and esteemed leadership at this critical time.

This is a collective statement from Pacific Elders’ Voice. For further information please contact us.

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