Pacific leaders adopt UN resolution, warn global climate crisis - not China - remains biggest threat to island nations
Pacific island leaders have endorsed a United Nations resolution to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact in the region. And they said the global climate crisis, not China, remains the biggest threat to the Pacific despite the United States securing a key defence pact with Papua New Guinea this week. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also held talks with more than a dozen Pacific leaders, to counter Chinas growing power and influence in the region. But the Pacific Islands Forum said growing military tensions in the region between Washington and Beijing do not address the most significant security threat to the region climate change. READ MORE: * US signs new security pact with Papua New Guinea amid competition with China * Four key reasons to explain New Zealand's sodden 2023 * Looking at the spike in ocean temperatures * Senior United States officials warned Solomon Islands of US 'response' to feared Chinese military base The Pacific has become the focus of military tensions since China signed a security agreement with the Solomon Islands in April last year. New Zealand, Australia and the US have since denounced any increased Chinese military presence in the Pacific. Pacific leaders said the military tension remained secondary to rising seas and catastrophic cyclones. The UN resolution was the major outcome of the 79th session of the Economic and Social Commission of Asia-Pacific (UNESCAP) in Bangkok, Thailand, last weekend. The 10 resolutions included promoting clean energy technologies, improving power system connectivity and low-emission mobility, implementing early warning systems and strengthening the use of climate change-related statistics. During the sessions, Pacific Islands Forum chair Mark Brown criticised global leaders for failing to keep their promises to combat the climate crisis. Brown, who is also Cook Islands prime minister, told delegates that the Pacific was grappling with human-induced climate challenges, and for far too long. Blinken and Indias prime minister Narendra Modi both committed more trade and security support for the island nations at the Forum for India-Pacific leaders in Port Moresby. While the Pacific welcomed commitments of support in health, education, fisheries and technology from the US, India and other strategic partners, we must not take our eyes off the biggest threat to our islands, and that is climate change, Brown said. The reaction by all the leaders that were present was one of gratitude. To lift as many of our people out of poverty, to be able to provide this sort of support to the Pacific is a tangible demonstration of good cooperation. PNG Prime Minister James Marape, who co-chaired the meeting in Port Moresby with Modi, said his government had pushed the agendas of the Pacific. These issues included the climate crisis, he said. Some of the smaller nations don't have as big a voice as some of us do. So we are now talking as a consolidated front. New zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins was also in Papua New Guinea and said military presence did not necessarily signify militarisation. He said the agreement between the US and PNG was more of an extension of an existing relationship between the two countries, rather than a new thing. Its not just about military presence, it's also about development and relationship. Hipkins also held talks with Marape over climate change mitigation and resilience, with the effects of climate change already being felt in PNG. Our international contributions to the climate effort have never been more important, Hipkins told journalists. Things like helping to build energy resilience and core infrastructure - particularly around transport and so on. During the special forum leaders retreat in Fiji in February, Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni pledged $25 million into a regional partnership and for science research to help fisheries affected by climate change. Sepuloni said the assistance package would help Pacific communities focus on combatting the threat of climate change to tuna , the most economically significant natural resource in the Pacific. The increasing ocean temperature is driving tuna beyond the zones of some reliant countries, she said. ESCAP executive Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana told the Bangkok summit last weekend that the global climate fight would be won or lost in this decade. Nine other resolutions aimed at strengthening regional action and partnerships towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were also adopted at the session which drew over 1000 representatives from governments and stakeholder groups. The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) which specialises in conflict, security and development, said low-lying Pacific islands including Fiji, Tonga and Samoa were some of the most vulnerable in the world to the extreme weather events caused by the climate crisis. These islands have been battered by a series of tropical cyclones in recent years, causing devastating flooding that has displaced thousands of people from their homes and impacted the economy, the institutes associate fellow, Dr Jeffrey Mazo said. He said climate change risked exacerbating security issues in the Pacific and would, in turn, influence all aspects of regional peace and stability. The UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) will be held in Dubai from November 30 to December 12.