PNG, USA and Vulnerable Island Nations Look to Ambitious Global Climate Change Goals in Paris

The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea and Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, Hon Peter O’Neill CMG MP, and the President of the United States, H.E. Barack Obama, with leaders from vulnerable island states, have agreed that ambitious goals must be set at COP-21 in order to be truly effective in dealing with climate change.

This common position was revealed at the multilateral meeting between the two leaders and the Presidents and Prime Minsters from Pacific Island and other countries that are facing significant risk because of climate change. The meeting included the President of Kiribati, H.E. Anote Tong, the President of the Marshall Islands, H.E. Christopher Loeak, and the leaders of Barbados, the Seychelles and Saint Lucia.

PM O’Neill thanked President Obama for arranging the meeting with island nations and said he looks forward to further engagement on the important issue of climate change that is affecting many lives in the Pacific.The United States has a unique opportunity to take a leading role in discussion on climate change, and we appreciate the meeting we had today with vulnerable island states,” PM O’Neill said.

“At the Paris conference we need to set ambitious targets that all countries can aim for, and these must be targets that have real impact on climate change.

“Weak targets will not be enough and will only provide an excuse for some countries to not be proactive.

“This is the right time for ambitious targets as there are countries that are facing terrible risk and they need action now.

“There are nations that will cease to exist in our lifetime if we do not act, and as noted by President Obama, these countries have the right to exist just like every other country.

“We also need to realise that if the global community does not do enough, that hundreds of millions of people will be affected and not just smaller island states.

“This is a unique opportunity we have in Paris to really begin to deal with one of the biggest challenges facing the world today.

“It is important that we have a balanced outcome from this meeting.”

PM O’Neill also called for the establishment of an international fund to support endangered communities that can draw on existing functional structures.

“The damage is being done to small island communities and the intentional community has an obligation to help vulnerable nations.

“There are examples of support funds that are working already such as the global fund on health that is working in many nations.

“We need to establish a climate fund that is effective in that funds can be transparently accessed in a timely manner and it helps to rebuild communities.

“In the commitments made by the international community, priority must be given to the most vulnerable nations dealing with rising seal levels, severe droughts and extreme tropical storms.”

Transcript of news conference comments by United States President, H.E. Barack Obama:

It is a great pleasure to meet with several of the leaders of island nations who are vital to the work we are doing here in Paris.

Their populations are among the most vulnerable to the ravages of climate change.

If sea levels rise at currently projected levels, at the pace that is currently projected, some of their people will be forced to flee their homes.

Some of their nations could disappear entirely, and as weather patterns change we might deal with tens of millions of climate refugees from the Asia-Pacific region.

As I mentioned to my friends around the table, I am an island boy, I grew up on an island and understand both the beauty but also the fragility of island ecosystems.

I spent time in Indonesia, a large developing country where you could see how shifts in climate could have extraordinarily destructive effects.

So the views of these smaller nations, and their voice, in these negotiations will be absolutely vital and one of the things that we heard, the consensus between the united states and these smaller nations is that we have to have an ambitious agreement.

That, although the targets themselves may not have the force of treaties, the process, the procedures, that ensure transparency and periodic reviews – that needs to be legally binding, and that is gong to be critical, in us having high ambitions and holding each other accountable for these measures.

The climate financing has to reflect the unique needs of the most vulnerable countries in how it operates, in that those pledges have to be real.

As part of the effort to make sure that the United States is doing its part even ahead of the Paris agreement, we have already begun to take some steps and work with both individual countries as well as some multilateral organisations to deal with the damage and problems that already occur as a consequence of climate change.

To give you one example, the United States is making new contributions to risk insurance initiatives aimed at helping more people in vulnerable nations, including Pacific Island nations respond to the worst impacts of claimed change and this demonstrates our commitment to make good on the goal that we set this summer in the G7 to provide this kind of risk insurance to anther 400 million people, and we join with other donor nations in setting up there kinds of structures.

Bottom line is this, the nations that are represented by the leaders right here today, they are not the most populous nations, they do not have great armies they do not have the biggest influence in the various international organisations, but as Prime Minister O’Neill indicated from Papua New Guinea, they have a right to dignity and to a sense of place and continuity of culture as everybody else does.

Their voice is vital in making sure that the kind of agreement that emerges here in Paris is not just serving the interests of the most powerful, but is serving the interests of the most vulnerable as well.

The United States intends to stand with them as a partner in this process, we know that negations are going to be difficult and we know that even with an optimistic outcome here in Paris, that we will still have more work to do if we are to ultimately achieve to goals that scientists say we need to achieve to avert catastrophic pain.

This is a place to start and I just want thank our leaders who have been a part if this conversation.

I am encourage by the general consensus that we were able to achieve and we want to send our negotiators off with with the sense of the strong support of their leadership.