France gathers Pacific leaders ahead of COP21
France has gathered Pacific leaders together in Paris this week for a summit ahead of the COP21, but will it support the islands' ambitious goals for the crucial climate change talks?.
The French president Francois Hollande has gathered Pacific leaders together in Paris this week for a summit before crucial climate change talks which start on Monday.
Paris says the France-Oceania meeting is a chance for Mr Hollande to speak directly to the region about climate change.
But will France support the islands' ambitious goals for the COP21 talks?
Sally Round reports.
This is the fourth France-Oceania summit and the second to be held outside the Pacific. The last one was held in the New Caledonian capital Noumea in 2009. This summit's aim is to have a common stance going into COP21. The Overseas Minister George Pau-Langevin told the Tahiti Infos website it was important for the islands to feel included.
GEORGE PAU-LANGEVIN: This meeting before COP21 will enable the Head of State to speak directly to the small Pacific Island states which sometimes feel a little isolated and victims of climate change.
Among the aims of COP21 is to achieve a legally binding agreement on global temperature rise. A general goal is to limit warming to two degrees but the Pacific island countries have a much more ambitious target of a 1-point-five degree limit. While the summit shows a France keen to listen to the concerns of Pacific island countries, Ms Pau-Langevin is cautious about setting temperature limits before the crucial talks.
GEORGE PAU-LANGEVIN: If we manage to get a commitment approaching two degrees then damage would be limited.
The summit comes as countries like the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Fiji take an increasingly assertive stance over climate change. Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama says Pacific countries must stand up to bigger nations at COP21.
FRANK BAINIMARAMA: I have indicated, I will not go to Paris without putting up the strongest of fights and neither will my fellow island leaders. We are united. We are determined.
Tuvalu's prime minister Enele Sopoaga says it would be a shame for world leaders to miss a unique opportunity to put the interests of humanity ahead of corporate profits and economic advancement.
ENELE SOPOAGA: This is the moment that leaders must seize, that cannot lose. We have no option. Failure is not an option for us in Paris.
So will the France-Oceania Summit be a chance for Pacific islands to get support from an influential industrialised nation in their quest at COP21? RNZ International's French Pacific specialist Walter Zweifel says for France the gathering is a geopolitical manoeuvre.
WALTER ZWEIFEL: The summit is a further step for Paris trying to integrate the French Pacific territories into the region's architecture. Jacques Chirac in 2003 put to the Pacific Islands Forum leaders that they should make French Polynesia and New Caledonia full members. That's almost achieved and as France intends to stay in the region, it is close to indirectly being on the inside of the Forum.
The day-long summit opens on Thursday.
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