The Prime Minister of Tonga Hon Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva and his fellow leaders from the Pacific Islands countries met in Suva, Fiji, from 1st to 4th September 2015, for the 3rd Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF3) Leaders’ Summit/Meeting. The members of the PIDF include Pacific Island countries without Australia and New Zealand.
The Governing/Leaders’ Council of the PIDF adopted the PIDF Charter with the understanding that respective national processes of ratification were to be undertaken. Under this Charter, PIDF is historically established as an international organization, institutionally designed (with appointment of Samoan Mr. Francois Martel as PIDF Secretary General with a 2016 PIDF Budget of $2.4m) and the region’s first Regional Development Fund was formally launched to finance regional developments.
Concurrently, the first assignment of the internationally recognized PIDF was themed ‘Building Climate Resilient Green Blue Pacific Economies’ which culminated in a ‘Suva Declaration’ to be put up to the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) to be held in Paris later in the year. This Declaration addresses climate change adaptation and mitigation in relation to issues ranging from economic developments to survival of the member countries of the PIDF.
The Prime Minister of Fiji Hon Josaia Bainimarama, in his welcome address, commended the PIDF leaders for developing ‘Suva Declaration’ to create a firm position on climate change for the COP21 to the UNFCC. Hon. Bainimarama also reconfirmed Fiji’s standing offer of a permanent home to the people of Kiribati and Tuvalu if relocation due is needed due to climate change threats. He also announced assistance from the Fiji Attorney General’s Department to manage those states’ sovereignty-related legal issues.
The Chief Guest, His Excellency General Thanasak Patimapragorn, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand, in his keynote address, noted that Thailand is ready to share their experiences in sustainable agriculture, disaster management, fisheries tourism, community development, food security and human resources through the annual Thailand Pacific Island Forum (TPIF) international training courses. He concluded his address by stating that Thailand’s international cooperation agency formulated a plan of action for the countries in the Pacific region including designing development projects and short term training projects.
The Prime Minister of Tonga Hon Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva, as a panelist on the topic ‘Climate Change and Migration’, emphasized that relocation is by far the best adaptation option and that plans for international migration should already be underway. He stated that it is therefore significant for the Pacific Islands family to help the already affected islands in identifying when to move (the timing), how to move (the financing) and where to move.
In his closing remarks on the last day of the summit, Prime Minister Hon Samuela ‘Akilisi Pohiva stated that climate change is the greatest threat to our very survival. It is at the forefront of today’s global issues having garnered global momentum faster than all other world issues due to its ominous impacts to global co-existence and nowhere is this more evident than our islands, our home, our family, we call the Pacific. He emphasized that there is no exception, we all suffer the same problem not so much of our own doing. Therefore there is a call for our joint effort to mitigating these risks to our lives and livelihoods, and to building our capacity and resilience. He further stated that Tonga has set a target of 50 percent renewable energy by 2020 as one example, and although ambitious but it may be the last draw we have. It is not a matter of choice but rather it is a home for our children and the children of their children. He commented that the ‘Suva Declaration’ rightly and timely reflects our commitment to finding an irreversible solution in Paris this year, as our only hope of survival. Accordingly, the Government of Tonga fully supports this fine effort by PIDF and he thanked the Government and the people of Fiji for the initiative. He concluded by stating that “Together we are no longer small, together we are more capable, and together we are a powerful global force to speak in One Voice, a One Pacific Family”.
At the end of the PIDF3 Summit themed as ’Building Climate Resilient Green Blue Pacific Economies’, the leaders of the Pacific Island countries adopted the ‘Suva Declaration on Climate Change’, whereby the leaders of the PIDF will be bringing up Pacific climate change issues to the COP21 to the UNFCC. These issues include sufferings, adaptation and mitigation issues, and concerns on lack of responses to climate change impacts such as tropical cyclones, sea level rise, severe storm surges, more extreme weather events, coral bleaching, saltwater intrusions, coastal erosion, submersion of islands and ocean acidification.
The PIDF3 Leaders’ Summit therefore will call upon the COP21 to the UNFCC to be held in Paris later in the year for specific adaptation and mitigation actions due to global climate change. Included in those actions is capacity building on formal and non-formal education, knowledge management with particular emphasis on communication of climate change.
The Prime Minister Hon Samuela ‘Akilsi Pohiva and the rest of the Tonga delegation returned on Saturday 5th September 2015.