PIF Secretary General Henry Puna
Statement at the Climate Vulnerable Forum Pacific Regional Dialogue 2021 – Ministerial Meeting
5.30 – 7.00 pm Fiji time, Friday 3 September 2021
The Chair of this Pacific Regional Dialogue His Excellency Casten Nemra, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and his representative to the Forum, HE Albon Ishoda
HE Abul Kalam Azad, Special Envoy for the CVF
The Hon Mahendra Reddy, Minister of Environment for Fiji
The Hon Bruce Laingkone, Minister of Climate Change and Adaptation for Vanuatu
Professor Patrick Verkooijen, Chief Executive Officer, Global Center on Adaptation, CVF Managing Partner
Excellencies and representatives of Member States
Representatives of Development Partners
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you very much for this opportunity to address you today, as you deliberate on the climate change crisis recognised by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders, and by all Pacific Islanders, as the ‘single greatest threat facing our Blue Pacific region’.
There is no doubt that climate change is an existential threat for many Pacific Island Countries, and affects the core elements of Pacific peoples’ wellbeing and livelihood. As a former pearl farmer for nearly 20 years, from one of the most remote atolls in the Cook Islands—the island of Manihiki—I have gained more than a decade of lived experience, of the turbulent impacts of climate change.
Indeed, there are many similar personal experiences, from the countries that are represented today in this dialogue. Climate change is real, it is happening. And my firm belief is that true and meaningful climate action, can only be achieved, if we all play our part; if we all work together, and if we engage in all sectors and international platforms available to us.
At this juncture, let me congratulate the Governments of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Bangladesh, and the Climate Vulnerable Forum, for your leadership, in convening this very important Pacific Regional Dialogue.
It occurs at an unprecedented time – not only that our Members are struggling to cope, reeling from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our health infrastructure and economies – but more so, the latest findings of the IPCC Working Group 1 report, which confirms that the climate change crisis, is much more serious than we thought, and more pressing and urgent.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen. What we see around the world today, is that the most vulnerable countries to climate change, are not just the ones at the forefront of the brunt impacts, but are also the ones at the forefront of ambitious, decisive climate leadership. But this must be matched by ‘action,’ by the wealthy and major global emitters. Commitments alone are not sufficient. We need action, now.
We have seen renewed global focus and progress on climate change action, over the past months. Yet we must not lose sight of the fact, that the world is still glaringly off-track from achieving the 1.5-degree goal required, to safeguard the survival of our Pacific island communities. On the current trajectory, our coral reefs would be decimated, and many of our low-lying atoll islands, would be uninhabitable within our lifetime. This is not the future we want for our children. And this scenario makes a decisive decade so vital.
Two days ago, in my discussion with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, he emphasised that they will be counting on SIDS and the Pacific, to put pressure on the big emitting countries for urgent climate action, in the lead up to and at COP26.
This is in recognition that to date, we have not seen enough urgent and ambitious Nationally Determined Contributions, and net zero commitments, particularly from the large emitters. There is also little progress, on new climate finance commitments, including increased allocation for adaptation.
I am pleased to note that these key priorities are included, in the draft outcome of this regional dialogue.
Aligned to our regional commitment on climate change, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders last month issued a collective call, for COP26 to deliver the required ambition, resourcing, actions and pathway, towards a net-zero carbon by 2050, a 1.5-degree future that will safeguard our children and grandchildren.
While I am on the subject of safe-guarding the future of our children and grandchildren, I wanted to share with this Forum another milestone development for the region – that yet again cements the truth in the notion, that as a Forum Family, we can rise to new heights as a strong collective, where the future of our Pacific peoples is at stake. At their retreat on August 6, 2021, the Forum Leaders endorsed a Declaration on preserving maritime zones in the face of climate-related sea level rise. This is indeed a turning point, a significant development fundamental to our collective effort, to influence international discourse and responses, to the issue of climate change-related sea-level rise.
For us in the Pacific, we intend to take this fight forward, taking advantage of every possible avenue and means available to us. But that legacy moment for our Blue Pacific will only matter, if world leaders urgently commit to decisive climate action, that limits global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius. Advancing the work on Oceans within the UNFCCC at COP26 is crucial, recognising its centrality to the Blue Pacific. It is incumbent upon all of us therefore, to roll up our sleeves, and put our shoulders to the proverbial wheel…together
In closing, for us in the Pacific, climate change is not a debate, it is not a fiction or a theoretical subject. It is real, it is happening. And it is a matter of survival… and every day of inaction brings us one step closer, to a perilous and uncertain future, which could see many of our homes disappear.
But we will not relent. We will not give up. We will do all that is possible, to fight for our Blue Pacific, and for the future of the one planet that we all share together, as our home.
All the very best, I thank you.–ENDS