5 Aug 2009

Forum officially opens in Cairns

3:25 pm on 5 August 2009

The 40th Pacific Islands Forum has officially been opened in Cairns, Australia.

The meeting, attended by leaders of all 16 Forum countries, except Fiji, which has been suspended from the Forum, is expected to focus on climate change and the global economic crisis.

Megan Whelan reports from Cairns.

"In meetings yesterday, the smaller island states agreed to push for New Zealand and Australia to cut carbon emissions by 45 percent by 2020 and to hold off on regional trade talks. This morning the Forum secretary general, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, welcomed the leaders, saying the region is one of fundamental fragility. However he said the future holds infinite promise and called on the incoming Forum chair, Australia's Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, to lead the region to it. Kevin Rudd says there needs to be better co-ordination between states and development agencies to help the estimated 2.7 million people throughout the region living in poverty. The outgoing Forum chair, Niue's Premier, Toke Talagi, says while the past year has been a difficult one, particularly with the situation in Fiji. good progress has been made on the Pacific Plan."