Pacific News Minute: Climate Change & West Papua Top Agenda at Pacific Island Forum

Sep 8, 2015

Credit Wikipedia Commons

Leaders from around the Pacific gather in Port Moresby - the Capital of Papua New Guinea this week, for the summit meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum.  Climate Change leads the agenda in the run up to the United Nations Conference in Paris at the end of this year, but as we hear from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute - it may be hard to reach a common position.

In advance of the summit, a sub-group of small island states met to demand a legally binding agreement in Paris to limit average temperature rise to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius in this century.  That figure unlikely to find much support from the two heavyweights of the Pacific Islands Forum, Australia and New Zealand.  Leaks of a draft forum declaration called for a two degree threshold. 

Most scientists say that global warming is almost certain to pass both levels even if the UN conference agrees to stringent cuts on fossil fuels - but lower thresholds are important to Pacific leaders for two reasons.  First, sea level rise will almost certainly claim Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands by the end of this century no matter what, and other islands nations may be next.

The second reason, is regional politics. Last week, the 1.5 standard was also endorsed by a rival organization, the Pacific Islands Development Forum.  That group was organized by Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, after his country was suspended by the original group following a military coup. Though Fiji has been reinstated after elections, Bainimarama refuses to attend so long as Australia and New Zealand remain as members.  As major donors to many Pacific Island states, he says they wield undue influence.  His charge will find some resonance from Nauru - it's leader, Baron Waqa accused New Zealand of bullying after Auckland cut off 760 thousand dollars in aid to protest human rights abuses.