Pacific Islander youths and environmental campaigners have gathered in Fiji to amplify calls for measures to enforce the Paris Agreement to limit global warming, ahead of next week’s Pacific Islands Forum.
On board a flotilla, the campaigners from Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change, Greenpeace Australia Pacific and Amnesty International Australia said they are calling for nations to support a push for legal advice on the issues of climate change adaptation and damage.
In September 2021, Vanuatu began a push to seek legal advice from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the climate change obligations of nations.
The advisory opinion can be requested from the majority of members of the UN General Assembly.
Vishal Prasad, from Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change, said there is growing support for the ICJ advisory opinion as a way of motivating more urgent action to help Pacific nations respond to climate change.
“It would allow the peoples of the Pacific, who are experiencing the worst of the climate crisis, to affect broad, accelerated change. This is an idea whose time has come and we call on world leaders to step up and support it,” he said.
“It would mean we could better enforce the Paris Climate Agreement, and by ensuring human rights is at the fore of all climate responses.
Steph Hodgins-May, from Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said the advisory opinion would provide the framework for Pacific Island nations to have a greater say.
“By voting yes at the UN General Assembly, countries can ensure that Pacific Island nations have a greater voice on the international stage, and provide a legal framework for countries around the globe.”
Amnesty International Australia campaigner Rose Kulak said there is a need for greater urgency to limit the impacts of climate change on the most vulnerable nations.
“With all the regional leaders gathered at the frontline of the climate crisis, we hope they heed the calls of the people bearing the brunt of rising seas and catastrophic weather events. This is a human rights crisis in the making – but there is still time to act.”
Pacific elders – including Enele Sopoaga of Tuvalu, the 2019 PIF chair, Anote Tong of Kiribati, Hilda Heine of Marshall Islands and Palau’s Tommy Remengesau – have endorsed a new report from Australia’s Climate Council, released on Friday.
At current warming trends, the Pacific will endure more destructive cyclones, coastal flooding, the loss of 99 per cent of coral reefs, all of which will hit food and water security and precarious economies.
“To earn the trust of the rest of the region, Australia will need to show Pacific countries that it is serious about climate action, both by cutting emissions at home and working to enable greater global cuts in emissions this decade,” the .
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has to ensure the Paris deal goal of limiting global warming to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius is achieved.
Analysis of the current national climate plans submitted as part of the Paris deal shows the commitments would lead to a sizeable increase of in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 2010 levels.
The Pacific Islands Forum will be held in Suva, Fiji from 11-14 July.
Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said she will be attending the Pacific Islands Forum with a view to supporting the region’s call for stronger climate action.
“A strong, united Forum is central to protecting our shared interest in a region which is stable, prosperous and respectful of sovereignty,” she said in a statement.
“We look forward to listening and working with our Pacific family partners on our common challenges and shared goals.”
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Friday he would be attending the forum to advocate for Australia and Pacific nations to jointly host a UN climate summit.
He said there is room for Australia to improve on its delivery of its emissions target, adding that the new target of 43 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030 is a “floor”.
Additional reporting: AAP