July 5, 2018

Polynesian Leaders Issue Declaration on Climate Change and Oceans

News Source: SDG Knowledge Hub

Author(s): Catherine Benson Wahlén

29 June 2018: Heads of Government and heads of delegation from the Polynesian Leaders Group have issued the Amatuku Declaration on Climate Change and Oceans. The Declaration addresses the impacts of climate change, greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions, climate change displacement and security, climate change finance, climate change and the marine environment, and regional initiatives.

High-level representatives from American Samoa, Samoa, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and the Territorial Assembly of Wallis and Futuna participated in the Polynesian Leaders Group’s Sautalaga (open discussion) on the implications of climate change in the region. The meeting convened from 28-29 June in Tuvalu.

On the impacts of climate change, leaders express deep concern at the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) draft report on the risks to small island developing States (SIDS) and territories, including marine ecosystem impacts, sea level rise and extreme weather events. Leaders observe that these risks threaten the survival of island communities, particularly those living on coral atolls, and note with alarm that current global efforts to combat climate change are insufficient to secure the 1.5 degree Celsius limit.

On GHG emissions, leaders urgently call on all nations and their communities to “take dramatic steps to reduce GHG emissions,” including through significantly raising the ambition of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Leaders note that their GHG emissions are “very low” but commit to a low GHG emission development pathway and reaffirm support for the Regional Pacific NDC Hub.

They look forward to the completion of the Paris Agreement Implementation Guidelines, noting there should be “a complete package on the implementation of all elements of the Paris Agreement” and should include Loss and Damage. Leaders call for, inter alia: decarbonizing the global economy and transitioning to a low carbon, renewable energy and energy efficient development pathway; eliminating “unfair trade practices” that make such decarbonization difficult; and phasing out the use of coal in the power sector.

On climate change displacement and security, leaders express deep alarm at the growing number of people displaced by climate impacts. Noting that people displaced by such events who are forced to cross national borders are not defined as refugees, leaders call for a legal regime to protect people displaced by climate change and support Tuvalu’s efforts to seek legal protection for people displaced by climate change through a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution. They encourage the UN Secretary-General to appoint a special advisor on climate change and security and a special rapporteur to the UN Security Council to report on security threats caused by climate change. Leaders further call for, inter alia: establishing a ‘Grand Coalition of Pacific Leaders on Climate Change Displacement and Migration’ to find regional solutions to climate change-related displacement and migration. Leaders confirm that their territorial boundaries under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) shall “remain unchanged despite the effects of sea level rise.”

On climate change finance, leaders note with concern the costs of climate change-related severe weather events that cause devastation and loss of lives in the region and welcome the Task Force of the Pacific Island Climate Change Insurance Facility (PICCIF) and encourage it to expedite its work. They further encourage eligible Polynesian countries to develop Green Climate Fund (GCF) Country Programmes while also respecting the principle of leaving no one behind.

On climate change and the marine environment, leaders note climate change’s “devastating impacts” on the marine environment, particularly the health of coral reefs in the region, and call for Pacific-wide collaboration to “locate, study, manage and conserve heat-resilient coral communities, or ‘Super Reefs.’ Leaders commit to review the Pacific Marine Climate Change Report Card and how it can be effectively used.

Leaders express deep concern on climate impacts on the distribution and abundance of tuna in the Pacific Island region and encourage plans by Conservation International, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) to develop a greater understanding of these effects and to develop adaptation strategies to protect tuna stocks.

On regional initiatives, leaders commit to give serious consideration to the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme’s (SPREP) Integrated Ocean Governance and Health Oceans Programme and welcome efforts by the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat to develop regional policy initiatives that link oceans and climate change.