Vulnerable Pacific island nations will look to maintain momentum for action on climate change at a meeting in Micronesia this week after playing a key role in prompting action from China and the United States.
The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) was one of the most vocal international organisations demanding progress ahead of crunch climate talks in Paris last year.
The 16-nation group consists mainly of small island nations, most of which are susceptible to rising sea levels.
US President Barack Obama said the Paris talks would have failed without Pacific nations highlighting the dangers of climate change.
Instead, the negotiations succeeded, culminating in Washington and Beijing—the world’s two biggest polluters—signing up to the ambitious Paris deal at the weekend.
“We could not have gotten a Paris agreement without the incredible efforts and hard work of the island nations, they made an enormous difference,” Obama told a conference in Hawaii last week.
PIF secretary general Meg Taylor said the organisation’s leadership on climate showed how small nations could band together to have an impact.
“The Pacific really stood together, we can use the collective to really move the world,” she told reporters this week.
Non-government organisations at the meeting in the Federal States of Micronesia capital Palikir said the focus now was to keep up pressure on climate change.
They said this included Pacific leaders examining issues such as relocating populations from threatened areas.
Plans must be drawn up to “enable our people to migrate with justice and dignity” in the face of rising seas, the civil society groups said.
Tiny Kiribati has already made provisions for moving its people, buying a large block of land in Fiji in case its people need to relocate.
Turnbull ‘warmly welcomed’ –
The dominant power in the PIF is Australia, whose prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, will attend for the first time since taking office last September.
Canberra’s conservative approach to climate has often caused tensions with other PIF members, but Taylor said Turnbull would be cordially received.
“He’ll be warmly welcomed and we’ll see how participation goes,” she told ABC radio recently.
“Particularly on issues such as climate change and disaster-risk management, where Australia will make a substantial contribution.”
Turnbull may also face questions over Australia’s immigration detention centre on the island nation of Nauru, which has been the subject of abuse allegations.
Nauru has dismissed leaked reports of violence and humiliating treatment against asylum-seekers as “fabricated”, while Australia is resisting calls for an inquiry into its detention centre.
The Pacific’s multi-billion dollar tuna fishery will also be under scrutiny. It is an economic lifeline for some nations but vulnerable to poaching and overfishing.
The meeting will also discuss applications from the French territories of New Caledonia and French Polynesia to become full PIF members.
They have participated on the sidelines of PIF meetings for a decade but have been prevented from becoming full members because they are not independent nations.
“This is a political decision that the leaders have to make about what kind of an organisation they want,” Taylor said.
“Do they want (only) independent, self-governing states, or are they prepared to have members that are working towards independence, reports AFP, PALIKIR.