By Delly Waigeno – EM TV News, Port Moresby
Climate change was high on the agenda at the official opening ceremony of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) held last night in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.
Outgoing Chair of the Forum and President of Palau, Tommy Remengesau, said with many of the delegates being island states, the ocean is our livelihood, culture, and economy.
He acknowledged the hardships faced by Pacific communities brought about by climate change.
Remengesau said the increasing vulnerabilities of Pacific countries to natural hazards that lead to disasters are reasons why climate change needs to be addressed urgently.
“We continue to look to a spirit of good-will and of the Pacific way of looking out for one another– particularly as we in SIS (small island states) countries face clear and present, and existential threats with regards to climate change,” Remengesau said.
Incoming Chair of the PIF and Prime Minister of PNG, Peter O’Neill, said climate change was an issue of high importance to the region. He said all member countries had a collective obligation to act on behalf of the most vulnerable members of the Pacific community.
“There will be more crop failures as well as [the] spread of plant disease and pests as weather conditions continue to change. Changing ocean conditions with increase in water temperature and acid levels will also be very bad for out fisheries industry,” O’Neill said.
The Prime Minister urged the region to act now. This, he said, meant reaching out to the larger countries contributing to climate change and drawing their support.
He said Pacific people should not have to change their way of life or abandon thousands of years of tradition because of the actions of larger countries producing carbon emissions.
“Therefore as a region, we must demand a change of attitude through international forums such as the United Nations. This is important as we approach COP21 in Paris in December. The 21st session on climate change conference is the most critical opportunity for the Pacific to make sure that its views are taken into account,” he said.
This morning, the forum leaders were invited to a private breakfast at the Parliament’s State Function Hall, hosted by the Speaker, Theo Zurenuoc.