Pacific island nations, lured by China and the United States, to the attention of superpowers, demand that the world’s two biggest carbon emitters do more on climate change while pledging to unite face increasing geopolitical competition.
Leaders at the four-day summit of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), meeting in the Fijian capital, Suva, opposed China’s attempt to divide several member nations a trade and security deal, while Washington committed to more financial and diplomatic engagement.
The 17 forum members’ exclusive economic zones span 30 million square kilometers (11.6 million square miles) of ocean – providing for half of the world’s tuna, the most eaten fish. Countries are also feeling some of the most severe impacts of climate change as rising seas inundate low-lying areas.
At the PIF summit that ended on Thursday, the leaders adopted language some members used to declare a climate emergency, saying it was not only supported by science but also by the daily lives of people in the Pacific.
A statement, yet to be released, shows countries focusing on the next UN climate conference, COP27. They will push to double climate finance flowing from major emitters to developing countries within two years, arguing that money is needed to adapt to rising sea levels and The storm is getting more and more serious.
The joint communique, reported by Reuters news agency, also called for meaningful progress at COP27 on financing “loss and damage” to vulnerable societies that cannot adapt and will need to move. displaced communities – a battle that was lost at last year’s global climate negotiations.
“What is most important to us is that we secure bold commitments from all countries at COP27 to phase out coal and other fossil fuels, while increasing financing for countries. most vulnerable countries and prior causes such as ‘loss and damage’ where the most important issue- Island communities are at risk,” Fiji’s President Frank Bainimarama told reporters.
“We simply cannot settle for the survival of every island nation in the Pacific,” said Bainimarama, the forum’s president.
Tuvalu Foreign Minister Simon Kofe, who really made waves at the last global climate conference by standing deep in the ocean to show what his country faces, told Reuters: There is technology available to protect the islands and raise the islands and that is what we are looking for. It is costly “.
As the Pacific summit ended, Australia’s coal mining stocks soared on expectations China could resume imports after a two-year political dispute caused coal shipments from home to spike. The country’s second-largest exporter stops shipping coal to the world’s largest coal-fired furnace.
Contrary to the market’s bullish bias, leaders at the forum’s thatched-roof headquarters discussed how to deal with the plight of those whose countries have sunk in sea-level rise, or the right to for fishing grounds is determined by their distance from a potentially vanishing land.
The statement highlights the urgent need for assistance given the debt vulnerability and rising food costs amid the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a video address at the forum, US Vice President Kamala Harris pledged to triple funding for Pacific islands over a decade under a fisheries pact and open more embassies.
Pacific leaders are sometimes annoyed by the global focus on rivalry between Washington and Beijing over their region.
At the same time, Australia talks less about security and is committed to more support for the climate change agendas of its neighbours, although maritime surveillance announcements to protect sustainable fishing imply only the core anxiety of this country.
“It’s hard for the countries responsible for most illegal fishing then to argue that they would support the region to stop illegal fishing,” said Australia’s Pacific Minister Pat Conroy. in an interview, mentioned China.
Economic relations with China
Australian officials have said in particular that they do not want the security option in the region driven by economic ties with China and that although the Pacific islands are sophisticated actors, they need funding support because many have a historical debt to Beijing.
For example, Fiji has not received a loan from China since 2012 but continuing to provide import and export bank loans for Chinese infrastructure projects will cost the government $40 million. la Fiji ($18 million) this year, budget documents show.
Analyst Michael Shoebridge of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute said Beijing had a track record of “separating regionalism”, demonstrating a parallel between recent Pacific diplomacy and the foundation it has created. came out a decade ago to engage with European countries and bypass the European Union.
Several leaders said in interviews that China offers economic opportunities that the small island nation’s economies cannot afford to ignore, although they agree to work through the forum to maintain the status quo. unified response to great power competition, especially on security, after concerns that Beijing had reached a security agreement in April with the Solomon Islands.
The forum’s secretary-general has publicly criticized China’s attempt to get about half of the forum members to sign an agreement on trade and security by May, excluding members with ties to Taiwan. Loan and exclude Australia and New Zealand. Leaders at the summit said it was rushed without consultation.
The Chinese embassy in Fiji responded on Twitter on Saturday, saying that Beijing had prepared and submitted the resulting text to the Pacific islands a month before the foreign ministers’ meeting. Beijing has created a new platform for cooperation with Pacific island nations through an annual meeting with their foreign minister, they said.