August 3, 2010

Pacific Islands Still Need Climate Funding

The smallest Pacific Island nations said Tuesday that they had seen little of the global funding that was promised to help combat climate change.

The leaders of the world's tiniest states said in a meeting in Port Vila that their voice on the issue was often lost.

"We are the most vulnerable in many respects and therefore we've got to take the lead," the premier of the island nation of Niue, Toke Talagi, told a press conference.

Talagi said that despite the Copenhagen conference in December, access to climate-linked funding was difficult to obtain.

"The thing that we are finding is that even with the financial resources that have been promised and pledged, we still haven't received much at all," he said.

"We believe at the present moment that the processes are taking too long."

Palau President Johnson Toribiong said the issue needed to be addressed urgently in the Pacific, where some countries fear they may sink under rising sea levels.

"To the smaller states, climate change is a matter of urgency. It is a matter of life and death to some," he said.

Talagi said officials from the Cook Islands, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau and Tuvalu decided to meet in Kiribati later this year to decide on a position before the next U.N. climate change meeting takes place in Cancun, Mexico.

"We do have differences, we accept that. But that should not impede us from determining a way forward," he said.

Kiribati President Anote Tong, who governs a nation of 33 coral atolls southwest of Hawaii, said the Pacific did not have the resources to address climate change by itself.

"There's no question about it, our voice is not as loud," he told AFP.

Climate change will be a key issue when the 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum meets on Wednesday.

However, the question of Fiji is set to overshadow the forum after the country's military leader Voreqe Bainimarama failed to hold elections like he promised.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said he expects the leaders to stick to their position on Fiji, which is suspended from the forum, and not allow it to return until it was a democracy.

"My view is that the leaders remain united in the view that we want to see democracy restored in Fiji, and while they engage in dialogue with Fiji -- as indeed New Zealand does -- that doesn't represent a change in our overall position," he said ahead of his arrival in Port Vila.

Key said security also remained an issue for the region.  The islands were once known as the "arc of instability" because of concerns about states like East Timor, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.

Vanuatu Prime Minister Edward Natapei did not disclose information about the forum's future decision on Fiji, saying only that it was an important issue for the region.

"Personally, that's an issue I cannot talk about at this stage," he told reporters.

Natapei told AFP that he was not concerned that several leaders we unable to attend the forum because of domestic political meetings.  Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Papua New Guinea's Michael Somare are not attending the forum.

"I don't see that as devaluing the value of the meeting," he said.


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