6 Sep 2013

Pacific leaders launch a declaration to take leadership on climate change

5:11 pm on 6 September 2013

Fourteen Pacific leaders have agreed in Majuro to demonstrate climate leadership through action that contributes to the urgent reduction and phase down of greenhouse gas pollution.

The Majuro Declaration is light on details, but will be presented to the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the General Assembly later this month by the Marshall Islands president, Christopher Loeak.

Don Wiseman has more:

He wants it to contribute to his efforts to catalyse ambitious climate action and mobilise political will for a legally-binding climate change agreement by 2015.

The Forum's secretary general, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, explains what they aim to achieve.

"TUILOMA NERONI SLADE: So this is a declaration of responsibility. They have pledged to commit themselves as climate leaders and to demonstrate this leadership by attaching in this declaration what each is doing as part of their commitment to ameliorate emissions."

The declaration includes an itemised list of what each country is doing and planning to do. Many of the island nations promise to be using at least 50 percent renewable energy by 2020. Australia and New Zealand will cut their emissions by 5 percent by 2020, but they will commit to more if other industrialised countries also make stronger commitments. The New Zealand prime minister, John Key, says the Declaration is a realistic move and the focus of the leaders was to demonstrate that they are doing things for themselves.

JOHN KEY: And by showing the world that they are taking steps, even though they are small island states, they hope that other countries would take the initiative, as well. So there was a lot of talk, not so much about trying to bully the big emitters of the world but saying here are we, small countries, and we are converting to renewable energy.

The Palau President Tommy Remengesau, whose country was chosen to host next year's summit, says in the true spirit of Pacific culture, harsh words or demands were not used in the call for climate action.

TOMMY REMENGESAU: This favourite phrase for the week 'a bottoms-up approach and a top-down approach'. It has got to complement each other. We have got to do things that are within our own capabilities domestically, in order to adapt to climate change and we have to better engage and improve our partnership with the developed countries and donor partners.

Tuvalu's Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga, says he wants to see the Declaration received at the highest level of the UN so that a legally binding framework can be put in place by 2015. In other major actions, Forum leaders are expected to invite Fiji to rejoin the organisation after elections are held next September, the first since a military coup in 2006.

TUILOMA NERONI SLADE: It is the expectation leaders that there will be free and fair elections and upon that happening in Fiji they will revisit their decision to suspend.

The leaders also condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and called upon the United Nations to hold those accountable responsible. Cuba has been invited to become the 15th Forum dialogue partner, while the decision on accepting Spain was deferred until next year's Forum. The leaders also endorsed a UN Special Rapporteur's report on nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands that calls on the United States government to pay over US$2 billion in awards for nuclear-affected islanders. The Forum communique says the US and the UN have ongoing obligations to encourage a final and just resolution for the Marshallese.