Pacific Islands Forum fails on climate change and trade

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 06 Aug 2009

The failure of the Pacific Islands Forum to match Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s ambitious rhetoric with meaningful action on climate change will spell further disaster for the Pacific’s small island states already suffering the impacts of rising sea levels and more frequent cylones and storms, international aid agency Oxfam Australia said today.
Oxfam Australia spokesperson Kelly Dent, in Cairns during the Pacific Islands Forum, said people in the Pacific had lost an opportunity for crucial support to tackle the escalating effects of climate change.
“The Forum leaders encouragingly stated they would garner international support for a good outcome at the UN climate negotiations in Copenhagen in December,” Ms Dent said.
“However, a good outcome will only be achieved if developed countries like Australia cut their collective emissions by 40 per cent and commit to funding to help developing countries adapt to the impacts of climate change.
“Instead, the announcement of a call for a global emissions reduction target of 50 per cent by 2050 does not reflect the urgent action the science says is needed to prevent catastrophic climate change.
“By then, the people of Kiribati may well be swimming. By contrast, the G8 leaders recently agreed to 80 per cent global emissions reductions by 2050.”
Ms Dent said Australia needed to adopt a short-term emissions reduction target of 40 per cent by 2020 and commit new money to help Pacific Island peoples adapt to climate change.
She said it was disappointing that Australia had not committed any new money to help Pacific Island peoples adapt.
The current $150 million, committed in the lead-up to the 2007 election, must be at least doubled simply to meet the urgent most adaptation needs in the region.
Ms Dent said the Forum decision to press forward with negotiations on a new free trade agreement between Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific nations, PACER Plus (the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations), was disappointing.
"Trade negotiations are being pushed ahead despite Pacific leaders requesting time and resources to consult with businesses and communities on the likely impact of trade liberalisation on Pacific economies," Ms Dent said.
"Trade can be critical in helping lift people out of poverty, but what is on the table for negotiation runs the risk of undermining development rather than enhancing it, and adversely affecting generations to come."
Oxfam welcomed the Forum’s commitment to eradicate sexual and gender-based violence in the region, support for implementing the global Program of Action on small arms and light weapons and the announcement of a new development compact based on a ‘revitalised commitment’ to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
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