GP Insights

GP Insights # 126, 17 August 2019

The Pacific: Islands Forum fails to evolve a consensus
Harini Madhusudhan

What happened?
In Tuvalu, the 18 members of the Pacific Islands Group held a long discussion, but failed to pass a resolution with a strong message on climate change.  Prime Minister of the archipelago Tonga was reported to be in tears at the Pacific Islands Forum.
Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison used his influence to water down a climate resolution called the ‘Tuvalu Declaration'. The resolution had been drafted by the Smaller Island States (SIS) group earlier in the week. 
Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama questioned: "How does Morrison reconcile calling the Pacific family while he persistently ignores our demands for Australia to reduce its emissions?" said Moeono-Kolio the head of Greenpeace Pacific. 
 
What is the background?
The Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) is an intergovernmental organization that aims to enhance cooperation between countries and territories of the Pacific Ocean. Im 1971, it was founded in 1971 as the South Pacific Forum (SPF). It changed its name in 1999 to "Pacific Islands Forum", so as to be more inclusive of the Forum's Oceania-spanning membership of both north and south Pacific island countries, including Australia. It is a United Nations General Assembly observer. 
Australia and New Zealand are larger and wealthier than the other countries that make up the rest of the Forum. Australia's population is twice that of the other 17 members. Australia's economy is also five times larger. Both are significant aid donors and big markets for exports from the other island countries. 
Last year’s meeting was held in Nauru. Pacific island concerns about climate change were centre stage even then. The significance of climate change was underlined by its prominent inclusion in the new regional security agreement – the Boe Declaration. 
Dissatisfaction toward Australia, which reportedly prevented a stronger statement on climate change, was also evident in post-meeting interviews with leaders and was expressed in 2018. 
 
What does this mean? 
The failure of Australia and New Zealand to endorse serious climate challenges, like coal mining, reflects the attitude that the world has towards island nations and climate change. 
The most significant impact of climate change is said to be on the small island nations. These regions are already facing severe impacts of the change in water temperatures and increase of the sea length. The frustrations of the leaders of the smaller islands are directed towards the arrogance and ignorance of the bigger leaders of the region, but a region and its practices can not be changed overnight. It might be too late to be demanding the bigger powers to adapt to the changes for the sake of these islands. The sheer ignorance of the world and world media towards these issues may end up being a huge lesson for the world. 

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