11 Dec 2023

COP28: Pacific leaders launch 'Blue Prosperity' initiative in Dubai

6:31 pm on 11 December 2023
Pacific leaders at the launch of the Blue Pacific Prosperity initiative in Dubai.

Pacific leaders at the launch of the Blue Pacific Prosperity initiative in Dubai. Photo: Pacific Islands Forum

Pacific leaders launched their "bold vision" which they hope will "create transformational partnerships" for a prosperous region on Sunday.

The 'Blue Pacific Prosperity' initiative was unveiled on the side-lines of the UN climate talks in Dubai.

It is made up focuses on three goals to protect the ocean, have healthy people and ensure finance is accessible.

Almost a third of the region's ocean is to be put under protection under the new proposal, in line with UN 30 by 30 goal.

A major design of the initiative allows philanthropic organisations and the private sector to give money.

The chief executive and president of Bezos Earth Fund Andrew Steer pencilled in US$100 million at the launch of the initiative on 3 December.

"Today, you are announcing the biggest single biggest conservation effort in history," Steer told Pacific leaders at the launch.

The Global Environment Facility also announced another US$125m.

Pacific Islands Forum secretary general Henry Puna said the proposal would create a new way for the Pacific to generate finance, especially for ocean management and conservation.

The private sector is very interested in contributing towards environmental measures, he said.

"This is the first time that we in the Pacific are now looking at not just the traditional sources of funding that we've been getting, but a new source of funding," Puna said.

"I don't think it's an opportunity that we should dismiss; we should really embrace it and importantly receive [finance] on our own terms."

Palau's President Surangel Whipps Jr said the Pacific had demonstrated to the world the region is committed to the environment.

"We are doing our part, and we ask our friends and partners to do their part, and also to invest in us."

Pacific leaders have long been critical of climate finance, which they see as inadequate and hard to access.

The Blue Pacific Prosperity business case document said there was "broad consensus about what needs to be done", but insufficient funding.

"The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates that US$1 billion per year should be spent in the Pacific on climate adaptation, while the International Renewable Energy Agency estimates the need to spend US$650m annually just to meet renewable energy targets," it said.

"Yet no more than US$200m each year is currently spent on climate adaptation across the entire Blue Pacific Continent - only 20 percent of the IMF recommendation for an area five times as large as the continental US."

'Entrepreneurial and innovative'

Pacific Community's director of partnerships Karena Lyons said leaders have taken an innovative approach to the problem.

"They're showing the world that it's not good enough to sit around and talk about climate financing or development financing," she said.

"We actually have to be entrepreneurial and innovative and try to strategically use the capabilities that we have.

"That's how we've really landed in this place, where we've developed an initiative that was just so attractive to potential investors that you saw a $225m commitment."

The proposal will be open for signing from Tuesday (Dubai time) at COP28.

Whipps Jr said he had received assurances that most Pacific countries will sign.

"We don't know if every country will sign, but we know that a vast majority of the Pacific countries will commit at this COP," he said.

"We're excited about that and to partner with our partners here, especially philanthropy and governments in this effort."

Special Presidential envoy for climate John Kerry said Pacific voices were among the most powerful in the world when it comes to climate change.

"Your crisis of life itself, and in the existence in the homeland you have, is caused by the unmitigated, unabated, burning of fossil fuels, that's it; and if we don't stop burning unabated fossil fuels - shame on us," Kerry told Pacific leaders at the launch of the initiative.

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