The 2013 Pacific Islands Forum in the Marshall Islands is over, and the Pacific islands leaders are heading home with empty promises. Despite the efforts of the Prime Minister of the Marshall Islands and other Pacific countries, New Zealand and Australia refused to strengthen their commitment to take action on climate change.
Barry Coates, Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand commented: “Our commitments on climate change have been weakened over the past months even as the evidence and the impacts have increased. It is shameful that the Prime Minister and other developed nations would go to this Forum meeting being held on an island group that has been battered by extreme weather and profess to be acting in solidarity, while refusing to take on their responsibilities for preventing even worse disasters in future.”
Climate leadership requires action. New Zealand’s inactionis in stark contrast to the commitments made by the Pacific island countries themselves as they press for urgency in UN climate change negotiations, convert their energy to renewables wherever possible, and try to defend themselves against the devastating impacts of extreme weather and the mounting impacts of climate change.
The Forum was also marked by the open discussion of issues that have, until recently, only been talked about behind closed doors, notably the role of Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific Islands Forum. There is growing resistance to the dominant role that Australia and New Zealand are seen to play in the Pacific Islands Forum, and a new assertiveness by the Melanesian countries within the sub-regional Melanesian Spearhead Group. These were key issues highlighted in the Pacific Plan Review headed by former Papua New Guinea Prime Minister, Sir Makere Morauta. The Forum has agreed to a special meeting in six months time to consider the report.
Barry Coates: “New Zealand has failed to support our Pacific neighbours and friends on climate change. We are likely to look back on this Forum meeting as a turning point in our relationship with the Pacific and we can expect further erosion of our ties and influence as the role of China and other countries grows.”
Oxfam New Zealand is calling for a new approach towards the Pacific. Taking action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions needs to be accompanied by fundamental reform of the Pacific’s regional institutions to focus far more on the needs of the vulnerable and marginalised people, particularly those in remote rural areas and outer islands.
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