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Source: Small Island Developing States

16 May 2019: Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) leaders have issued a statement calling on all countries to take “decisive and transformative action” to reduce emissions and to ensure mitigation and adaption support at scale for countries in need. On his first official visit to the Pacific Islands region, UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the PIF, Fijian parliamentarians, and youth, urging “radical” emission reductions by 2025 and carbon neutrality by 2050.

The PIF Statement was released at the conclusion of the High Level Political Dialogue between PIF Leaders and the UN Secretary-General, which convened on 15 May in Suva, Fiji. The Statement highlights the Pacific’s integrated approach to tackling climate change and disaster risks through the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific, and urges “all world leaders to listen and to act.”

In his address to the PIF, the Secretary-General outlined challenges facing leaders in the region, namely climate change and increased threats to the world’s oceans and seas. Pointing to the 2018 Boe Declaration, which reaffirms climate change as the “single greatest threat” to the Pacific, he noted that sea level rise in some Pacific countries is four times the global average, and water and crop salinization are endangering food security and escalating impacts on public health. Guterres also highlighted climate change as a threat to international peace and security, and said that “military strategists see clearly the possibility of climate impacts increasing tensions over resources and mass movements of people.” The Secretary-General underscored the need for: urgency, will and ambition; scaling up pledges to halt emission increases by 2020; and achieving net zero emissions by mid-century.

Governments feel the costs of climate action forgetting that the costs of inaction are much bigger than any costs of climate action.

Regarding threats to the oceans, Guterres warned of overfishing, underwater deserts that lack oxygen, and species becoming extinct within decades. Noting that more than eight million tonnes of plastic waste end up in the ocean annually, he reiterated that plastic is expected to outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050. He commended Pacific countries for “ensuring the adoption” of SDG 14 (life below water) to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

During a speech to the Fijian Parliament, the Secretary-General recalled that, in 2017, Fiji became the first emerging market to issue a sovereign green bond dedicated to environmental conservation. He said that Fiji also: introduced an Environment and Climate Adaptation Levy; launched a rural electrification programme to reduce diesel emissions; and relocated villages and established guidelines to support people displaced from climate change. He lauded Fiji for being the first parliament in the world to undertake an SDG self-assessment, and underscored the need for investment in adaptation in the Pacific region.

Highlighting the upcoming UN 2019 Climate Action Summit on 23 September, Guterres called on country leaders to present plans to enhance their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by 2020 and to “radically” cut emissions by 2025 by ending subsidies for fossil fuels and unsustainable agriculture and shifting towards renewable energy, electric vehicles and climate-smart practices.

Addressing youth during a visit to Auckland, New Zealand, on 13 May 2019, Guterres emphasized four measures that governments should prioritize to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050: taxing carbon; stopping fossil fuel subsidies; halting the construction of new coal power plants by 2020; and focusing on a green economy and a just transition.

The Secretary-General said that governments “feel the costs of climate action forgetting that the costs of inaction are much bigger than any costs of climate action,” and stressed youth engagement. [UN News Story on UN Secretary General’s Visit to Fiji] [UN Secretary-General’s Comments at Closure of High Level Political Dialogue] [UN News Story on Four Shifts] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on UN Call for Action Ahead of Climate Summit]

MIL OSI Asia Pacific News