The leaders of Polynesian countries want strong political action to combat climate change and are pinning their hopes on a new declaration to push real political action from global leaders.
Polynesia calls for strong action on Climate Change
The leaders of Polynesian countries say they want strong political action to combat climate change.
The call comes in a declaration signed last week by the Polynesian Leaders Group.
The eight countries in the grouping will take the declaration Polynesia Against Climate Threats (PACT) to the United Nations climate change conference in Paris at the end of the year.
Tom Furley reports.
The Premier of Niue and chairman of the Polynesian Leaders Group, Toke Talagi, says last week's declaration is about ensuring the pressing issue of climate change is brought into the international political scene. Countries in Polynesia are already feeling effects such as rising sea levels in Tuvalu and intense storms across the region.
TOKE TALGI: The fact of the matter is that the focus that we need to take now is to take it at a political level rather than a climate science level. We as leaders of this Polynesian group want to engage the leaders and politicians in major countries, an we've already done that with China and so on, but we need to work a bit harder and work on partnerships with these people to ensure that in fact we all are working together on this.
Countries' latest efforts to combat climate change are to be finalised at this year's United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris in December. There the proposed emissions cuts tabled by each country will be presented and agreed upon. An independent climate change advisor, and former principle advisor for the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Brian Dawson, says current proposals won't be enough.
BRIAN DAWSON: If you look at what's on the table at the present time working up to Paris, we're probably still, even if all those emission reductions were agreed to, still on track for a three degree plus temperature increase so we still need to get much greater effort than currently what's on the table.
This month New Zealand announced its goal of cutting emissions 30 percent from their 2005 level by 2030. That's the equivalent of an 11 percent cut on 1990 levels. The target has been criticised by opposition parties and environmental groups as a minimum objective and not enough. A climate campaigner at Greenpeace New Zealand, Simon Boxer, says the latest target sends the wrong message to the Pacific.
SIMON BOXER: What we say to the Pacific and the rest of the world is 'Hey we really care, we're doing our best, we've got lots of renewable energy, we'll do more, we promise.' And the reality is when you actually look at what they submit in terms of the fine detail in the negotiations is exactly the opposite. So I think people throughout the Pacific should stop believing that New Zealand cares about them on climate change because they don't.
However, Brian Dawson says New Zealand's target is a starting point and it's important to consider each country's situation.
BRIAN DAWSON: Compared to some of the other countries it's on the lower side. But to be fair to New Zealand they also face a range of characteristics that are somewhat different from other industrial countries; they have a very high level of emissions associated with non-energy sectors, non-CO2 emissions particularly methane from agriculture; they're sometimes more difficult to address.
There has been silence so far from Pacific Island leaders on New Zealand's targets. Earlier Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama singled out Australia as being part of what he called a "coalition of selfish industrialised nations" who out their carbon polluting industries ahead of the survival of Pacific Islanders. The Niuean leader, Toke Talagi, says it is not up to him to say what New Zealand can or can't do.
TOKE TALAGI: Every country will have their own climate policies. New Zealand does, Australia does, the Americans do. What we need to do is sit down with them and say 'well this is going to impact on us, you've got to work a bit harder as politicians to make sure that in fact we achieve the levels that we want to achieve in reducing CO2 emissions and so on.' But as to what individual countries choose, we ourselves cannot say 'you've got to do this', all we can do is persuade them the need for political leadership in this area; the Pacific Islands."
The Polynesian leaders declaration will be presented to the Paris climate change meeting COP21 in December.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: