Pacific nations: Get serious on climate change

WELLINGTON (AFP) – Pacific island nations on the frontline of climate change demanded yesterday the world “get serious” about saving the planet ahead of United Nations (UN)-brokered talks on global warming.

The Pacific’s low-lying islands are among the countries worst affected by climate change, threatened by rising seas and increasingly extreme cyclones.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama told a virtual summit of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) that progress had stalled since the Paris climate agreement was signed five years ago.

“We Pacific nations owe it to our people, and to humanity as a whole, to raise our voices more to demand that major emitters step up their climate actions and commitments,”he said.

“Without this, we will lose our homes, our way of life our wellbeing and livelihoods – it’s past time to get serious.

Young climate activists with placards protest in front of Queens Victoria Building in central business district of Sydney. PHOTO: AFP

“We all signed the Paris agreement now let’s insist we put it to work.”

The 18-member PIF called the summit to articulate the region’s concerns ahead of talks today – co-hosted by the UN, Britain and France – to mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris deal.

The landmark accord committed all nations to cap warming at two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and encouraged them to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

But Bainimarama said the world was on track to increase temperatures by a catastrophic five degrees by 2100, with Pacific nations bearing the brunt of climate change.

“I refuse to let Fijians and our Pacific island sisters and brothers be some sacrificial canary for coal-mining countries and high-emitting companies. We must not stand idly by and watch the world’s most vulnerable countries suffer, only to warn the wealthier nations that their own fate will soon follow,” he said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who last week declared a “climate emergency”, said the Pacific was addressing the issue and needed the rest of the world to act too.

“I encourage everyone to maintain a sense of urgency because our region ultimately requires it,” she said.