His Excellency President Baron Waqa chaired a special meeting at the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) secretariat in Suva Fiji on 15 May, with leaders and the United Nations secretary-general in what is the first visit to the pacific region by the secretary-general.
UN chief António Guterres travelled to Fiji, Tuvalu, New Zealand and Vanuatu to discuss the looming threat of climate change, and while in Fiji attended the special meeting at the Forum secretariat, that is aimed at building momentum ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit to be held in New York in September.
At the meeting, President Waqa delivered an address highlighting the rich cultural traditions of the islands, their fight for independence, and importantly their vulnerability to the effects of climate change.
President Waqa referred to the unique challenges of the Pacific Island countries as documented in the SAMOA Pathway, stressing that the Pacific’s challenges are a “product of the global economic system, which was not designed with our (Pacific Island) countries in mind.”
“Our small populations and resource base rarely yield the economies of scale sought by private investors.”
Mr Waqa drew attention to high-consumption waste ‘abroad’ destroying the health of oceans and safety of the climate.
“Climate change has now emerged as the greatest threat to our (Pacific Islands) continued independence, and in some cases, our very existence.”
President Waqa cautioned his audience from viewing climate change as separate and distinct from the Pacific Islands’ challenges.
“Many of the global systems that have created our deep economic vulnerability are the same ones driving our climate emergency,” Mr Waqa said.
President Waqa concluded by asking that the secretary-general, in the lead up to the climate Summit, assist in unlocking the resources that will enable the Pacific to transform their societies as envisioned under the SAMOA Pathway and the Paris Agreement.
Kalvary Porte delivered a speech on behalf of the youth of Nauru with the urgency to protect Nauru from salt water contamination as a result of sea level rise, eroding coastline, and calls for assistance to rehabilitate the mined out land for relocation of residents from the coast to the island’s interior.
“We the youths of the Pacific are in the line of fire because of a problem we did not produce. Its time you (the delegates) help us build our resilience and maintain balance of the future generations before it’s too late.
“Leaders must understand that saving the lives of the youth of today will also determine a possibility of having a future. Youths are the leaders of tomorrow. You see, we worry if our leaders are not paying attention to us,” Ms Porte said.
The meeting provided an opportunity for Pacific Forum leaders to reiterate their climate change challenges and to discuss how they can, together with the UN, urge other countries to upgrade their pledges and to stop carbon emissions by 2020, as well as achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The Nauru delegation also presented a five minute video demonstrating the effects of a changing climate for Nauru.
Please find attached address delivered by His Excellency President Baron Waqa, MP., at the meeting with the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and Pacific Islands Forum leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum secretariat headquarters in Suva, Fiji on 15 May 2019.
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