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The historical visit of the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres to the Pacific last month has left lasting legacies for Pacific countries.
Apart from what has been described as ‘having a UNSG that now understands the Pacific,’ Guterres personal initiatives not to use plastic and to travel without air conditioning in his car are examples he’s left behind that Pacific Islanders can emulate.
Reflecting on the top UN diplomat’s visit to four Forum member countries, Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor told PACNEWS, “Pacific Leaders were pleased to have a good conversation with the UN Secretary General at the High level Dialogue and at their bilateral discussions.”
“These conversations were not just here in the conference room but constantly in the bilaterals as well. And the big emphasis made by our Leaders was that this was not just climate change, this was a climate emergency and that we were seriously running out of time, particularly that anything greater than 1.5 degrees was catastrophic for our region, said Dame Meg.
“We just have to keep the pressure on in the lead up to the UN Climate Action Summit to be hosted by the SG Guterres in September in New York.
Dame Meg said despite the Pacific call on world leaders to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, ‘the disappointing fact remains that some countries are still producing coal, as mentioned by the UN Secretary General. There are also big powers like the U.S and China that are making little effort to reduce their emissions, impacting countries in our region who are on the frontline.’
After visiting the Pacific – and seeing first-hand the impacts on climate change on the low-lying atoll nation of Tuvalu, Pacific leaders acknowledge and are convinced that they now have a United Nations Secretary General that understands their plight.
In the Blue Pacific’s Call for urgent Global Climate Chang Action issued by Leaders after the High Level Dialogue in Suva, the Pacific urged the UN Secretary General to amplify their voices in New York and to act on their behalf to save the earth and the Blue Planet.
One of the immediate initiatives suggested by SG Guterres to the Forum was the set-up of a fund that deals in small amount of money that is easily accessible and reaches communities to ensure they are safe.
Dame Meg said the proposal was in line with a Forum initiative that came from the Finance Ministers to set up a Pacific Resilience Fund.
“That is exactly what we are doing here already. We are going to have an extra-ordinary meeting of Finance ministers to discuss the Pacific Resilience Fund. This week we are sitting with our consultants and our resilience team to think where the gap is and where the niche is and work out where we can go in and help our countries address the preparedness of communities.
“Some of things that came up in our discussion with our team is the need to have early warning systems in place, the need to have community shelters that are well prepared to withstand natural disasters to ensure communities are safe. Also things like refitting jetties so help can get to communities quickly. The need to climate proof infrastructure at the community level where small amounts of money can be made available and can make a difference and save lives.
“We are currently looking at some financial models to see what can work for us and get this off the ground. We have talked to the UNSG about this to discuss the need to convene donors to raise money for the Fund, Dame Meg told PACNEWS.
The head of the Suva based Forum Secretariat said the upcoming annual meeting of Pacific Leaders in Tuvalu will be another high-level platform for the Pacific to consolidate their position to push for more global climate action at the New York Summit.
Dame Meg revealed the Tuvalu Leaders’ Summit, from 12-16 August will be ‘paperless and plastic free.’
‘As a paperless forum, I guess all meeting papers will be distributed to delegates for use by Leaders and the rest through PIFS secure site and on USBs. As aplastic free forum, all delegates are encouraged to bring their own reusable water flasks and thermos for the consumption of both hot and cold beverages.
“This is a fantastic initiative by the host government. The Forum Secretariat is also considering making future meetings plastic free and paperless, said Dame Meg.
On preparations for the Summit, the Forum SG said the conference centre and a meeting hall have been built to accommodate the 300 delegates expected on the island during the week.
“There will be some accommodation limitation and Tuvalu has placed a limit on delegations from civil society, the private sector and media. The media will have 20 representatives and civil society and private sector 10 representatives each, said Dame Meg.
This year will mark the 50th conference of Pacific Forum Island Leaders – and the theme of the summit is “Securing our Future in the Pacific.” .
Pacific Islands News Association
Who & What is PINA?
International News Safety Institute (INSI)
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