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By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor in Funafuti
Vanuatu’s foreign affairs minister, Ralph Regenvanu confirms his country was also one of the Forum Island Country members that asked for qualification on the Smaller Island States Leaders declaration on climate change, similar to Australia and New Zealand.
Speaking to journalists in Funafuti after the historical marathon Leaders Retreat that lasted more than 12 hours, Regenvanu said Vanuatu could not sign off on a document that it had not seen.
“We were being asked to endorse a statement that we have not read. That is why this statement needs to be brought before the leaders so that we can decide whether we can endorse it or not and not just endorse something that we have not seen, said Minister Rengenvanu.
That is why the Leaders Communique has asked the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat to institute a process for tabling Smaller Island States (SIS) decision at Leaders meeting.
When pressed for a clarification, Forum Chair and Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sopoaga denied the Leaders directive had nothing to do with the declaration on climate change endorsed by the group for Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS).
“It’s the wish of the Leaders to seek for some clarity on the process. The SIS is a grouping within the Forum of countries with special and unique situations because of their smallness, isolation and vulnerabilities.
“The criteria and the process in which this sub group of the Forum is working is rather ambiguous and unclear and there are areas that we need to provide clarity so that their issues and the management of their issues are properly handled within the process of the larger Pacific Islands Forum, PM Sopoaga explained to PACNEWS.
He said the call from the Leaders is simply seeking more procedural clarity and the Forum Secretariat has been tasked to provide this perhaps in the next meeting in Vanuatu.
Vanuatu’s Minister Regenvanu assured the process will be followed in Vanuatu.
He said the wording of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Funafuti Declaration on climate change was strong, compared to previous years.
“There is reference to 1.5 degrees throughout, there’s reference to the IPCC report throughout and there’s reference to strategies to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. There’s reference to elimination to fossil fuel subsidies and there’s reference to just transition away from fossil fuels. Most of the key language that we wanted is now there.
“Vanuatu is happy with both the communique and declaration, said Minister Regenvanu.
On the question of Australia isolation, Minister Regenvanu said PM Scott Morrison was very clear on what he could not endorse.
“”The red lines for Australia were coal and announcing a net zero strategy by 2050 by 2020. He couldn’t commit to any target of below 1.5 degree, explained Regenvanu.
“The climate crisis language was kept in but the Blue Pacific was amended to Pacific Island States as a compromise that allowed us to get in.
Regenvanu said there were fierce and very frank discussions at the Retreat.
“There was twice that it seemed it wasn’t going to happen and there wasn’t going to be a joint declaration. The meeting had to regroup to make sure that everyone stayed inside the tent. It was very fierce and very frank and there was some people who just didn’t want to move and in the end everyone had to move a bit, revealed Minister Regenvanu in Funafuti.
As at 4pm this afternoon, the final copy of the Leaders communique was still being scrubbed down by officials before it is released publicly.
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