Nov 14, 2018 Last Updated 5:29 AM, Nov 14, 2018

THE recent disparaging remarks made by Australia’s Environment Minister, Melissa Price, to former Kiribati President Anote Tong is a reminder of all that is bad about Australia and its views of the Pacific. That a serving Australian Cabinet minister would insult an esteemed regional leader and international climate change warrior and accuse him of being driven by money is a measure of the woman. And that she should accuse the Pacific of only being in the war on climate change for the money shows her lack of knowledge of the issue, the region and its people.

Price stands accused of walking up to Tong – a Nobel Peace Prize nominee – while he was dining with friends in a restaurant and saying: “I know why you’re here. It’s for the cash. For the Pacific it’s all about the cash. I have my cheque book here, how much do you want?”

This from a representative of a country which for decades has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol which would limit greenhouse gas emissions and guarantee a safer environment.

This from the representative of a country which continues to mine coal and contribute to the factories which keep global warming at dangerously high levels.

This from the representative of a country which for years has treated Pacific seasonal workers with disrespect, issuing them visas at a lower level than European backpackers.

 For Tong and the Pacific, the battle against climate change has never been about the cash; the fight has always been about justice and dignity.

Price – as a dinky di Australian – should be familiar with the term “fair go” which means to treat people fairly or give them a reasonable chance.

On the world stage, Tong has appealed at every possible forum – the United Nations, the Commonwealth, among others – on behalf of the Pacific people for a fair go.

With the ocean rising rapidly and no end in site to global warming, Tong has led the charge for migration with dignity as the last possible option for his people.

Under his watch Kiribati negotiated the purchase of land in Fiji on which to grow food and provide refuge should the day come when the i-Kiribatis must relocate.

And Price’s Australia continues to pump carbon into the atmosphere with scant regard for the Pacific.

Under Tong’s leadership Kiribati has trained young people in seafaring and nursing skills to international level so that should the need arise they can find employment in Australia and New Zealand.

And Price’s Australia continues to argue that perhaps it need not reduce emissions to levels accepted in Paris in 2017 by the international community.

At no stage has Kiribati or Tong asked for charity or suggested that cash is the answer to the problems faced by his country, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and much of the Pacific. The Pacific people are not beggars. By her comments Price has implied that the region is lined up at the doors to Australia’s treasury, cap in hand, waiting for freebies. Nothing can be further from the truth.

We would not presume to speak for former President Tong. But on behalf of the Pacific people, we say this: The region does not want handouts from Australia. What we want is a reduction in carbon emissions so that global warming is reduced, and the Pacific can fight climate change. What we want is Australia’s support in the battle against global warming through a reduction in the sale of coal and the eventual closure of its mines.

In recent years Australia has fought to claw back its influence in the Pacific, a region which it has neglected for nigh on two decades in its efforts to become an international player. The United Nations and the War on Terror have been Australia’s focus for so long that it forgot the Pacific.

Now that China has found its way into the region, Australia has struggled to re-acquaint itself with its island neighbours. Price has dealt a heavy blow to any progress that has been made thus far. Her failure to apologise to Tong when the chance availed itself will be remembered for years.

If Australia wants to make friends in the Pacific, it would do well to rid itself of representatives like Price and replace them with individuals who understand the island people and their psyche. 

The fight against climate change is real. For the Pacific this is a matter or urgency. This is an issue beyond money, charity or the much-vaunted cheque book of an Australian Cabinet minister.It is a battle for survival.

What the Pacific and Tong deserve immediately is something without price – an unreserved apology,

Report of hope for Pacific

As we are faced with darkness there is hope.

The special report from the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius has been released. The messages within the report will generate both hope and fear, yet are abundantly clear in terms of the need for action.

The report is all about the Pacific - anything above 1.5˚C threatens the very fabric of our communities and islands - and not just about the Pacific – climate change is a threat that no nation, however wealthy, can afford to ignore.

A 1.5˚C world will bring huge challenges to the Pacific, our people and our ecosystems. Yet compared to 2˚C and above it is a world of possibility and hope.

By keeping temperatures below 1.5˚C, climate-related risks to health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, human security, and economic growth will be reduced. There will a future for at least some of the coral reefs so intrinsic to our Pacific identities and economies. Atoll communities will suffer as sea levels rise, but there will be hope that the ocean will stabilise. Adaptation limits may be reached in some places, but enhancing resilience will bring possibilities for an improved future for many, including moving us closer to achieving our Sustainable Development Goals.

Let us not dwell on 2˚C and above – for Pacific Islanders it is simply not an option.

This report gives us hope – it is clear that it is possible to keep global warming to 1.5 ̊C and that we now have the specific information we need to be able to make this happen.

Humanity has the power to make the changes needed. This report is our guiding document, it shows our current state, where we would like to be and what it is that we need to do to get there.

While our Pacific islands are small and face many challenges, we are strong in unity. We are strong when we work together with all Small Islands Developing States. This was demonstrated loud and clear when we worked together to negotiate for the Paris Agreement to include text for Parties to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increased even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. We, a group of Small Islands Developing States, mobilised in Paris, 2015 to have the global community agree to this. And we were right to do so, this report tells us so.

Before we go any further, let’s take a look at the IPCC “Special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty.”

According to the IPCC, over 6,000 research papers were assessed, 42,000 comments were received in the three reviews resulting in a report that had 91 authors and editors of whom 32% were women and 68% were men from across 40 countries.

We are beyond disputing or questioning the report and the science from the IPCC. We now need to question ourselves.

This report is the impetus, it’s the wakeup call for Governments, it gives us all a road map for our future. We no longer have time for complacency or delay on taking action to avert dangerous climate change.

If we take action and make real changes to lower our greenhouse gas emissions these changes in our lifestyle will also benefit our sustainable development.

Our global community has ten years to halve our global greenhouse gas emissions. We need to make an urgent switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy and an immediate global priority must be to phase out our use of coal. We need to redouble our efforts to increase our level of ambition to lowering our greenhouse gas emissions in the next round of our national commitments which are due by 2020. We must decarbonise the electricity sector by 2050 – goals that we in our Pacific islands are already committed to and are on the journey towards achieving.

This report provides us further science to support our calls for action on the global stage. We ourselves are also making sure we take action at the national and Pacific regional level with actions to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We are displaying global leadership for all humankind.

As we head towards the UN Climate Change Conference at the end of the year, our Pacific island nations remain steadfast on this journey towards lowering our global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Science tells us that we can reach the 1.5 global warming target. What we are experiencing in our Pacific island lives tell us that we must. We must persevere. We must commit to action and change. It’s “hashtag doable” as this current tech generation would say.
It’s in our hands, as a global family to do right.

Let us not be the generation that failed our planet and humanity.-

The above was released by the Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, Mr Kosi Latu on the day the IPPC released its special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius. Further information on the IPCC “Special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty can be accessed on http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/

Parcels of hard drugs washing up on the shores of some remote and isolated islands in Fiji, the numerous arrests of drug dealers in Tonga and now the detention of what’s believed to be an armoured boat in the waters of Papua New Guinea have all the tell-tale signs that drug cartels in the Asian and American continents have taken their game up to a whole new level.

It must be fair to say that they have declared an all-out war on all that dare stand in their paths, whatever or whoever that may be. As shown in the recent incident on remote Bidibidi Island off the eastern coast of mainland Papua New Guinea (see page 11), these gangsters and the cargo they transport will spare nothing and will go to any length in order for their fiendish objective to be achieved.

It goes without saying that given the vastness of the Pacific Ocean and how spread apart some of our islands are, our borders are porous and the proper policing of our waters a near impossibility.

Take the small island republic of Kiribati for instance. For an island nation that lay claims to a maritime boundary that is as big as the size of continental United States, it only has one single patrol boat to police all of its waters. One small diesel powered boat. Bigger countries like Fiji fare no better, as aging boats over the years had reduced its fleet to one.

Certainly it is an unacceptable state of affairs and surely something that is not lost on the drug cartels of Asia and the Americas.

The closest leaders of the Pacific came to addressing the scourge of hard drugs and the use of the Pacific as a drugs transhipment point in their Boe Declaration on Regional Security in Nauru early this month is their affirmation for an expanded concept of security which addresses among other things transnational crime.

Sad to say the region will have to do more, way much more if they are to curb this menace. If the cartels have raised the bar, then the region needs to raise their’s way further and farther. It calls for an all hands on deck approach, and there is no time to lose.

While securing a lot of patrol boats would help, there are other solutions that are not as expensive but very practical still. Collaboration and coordination is crucial. The Forum Fisheries Agency currently runs a very successful ocean surveillance centre which relies on a very comprehensive network of satellite and aircraft imagery. Of course their core role is to stop illegal fishing in our ocean, but surely it should not be difficult to extend that already working system into the war against drugs.

Inter-island ships and aircraft, especially those aircraft that fly domestically (since they tend to fly in lower altitudes than international bound planes) can be roped in as well in the fight against this seige.

National and international drug and security agencies need to be talking and working together more often both at policy and operational levels. Opening up your sea borders to pleasure boats for example may bring in that much desired foreign exchange, but one has to be ever alert about the undesirable cargo or hangers on that tend to follow in their wake.

THE controversy surrounding the ejection of China’s head of delegation from a meeting between Pacific leaders and donor partners at the 49th Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru was unfortunate as much as it was avertable.

Of course in saying that, we are not attempting to condone the seemingly unruly and disrespectful behaviour of the  Chinese diplomat when he reportedly hijacked the discussions at the Forum Dialogue to complain bitterly about the way his delegation had been treated by the host country. His so called crime was that he spoke when it was not his turn to speak, and some say, refused to stop his intervention when told to do so by the chair.

Yes there were other ways and avenues the disgruntled delegate could have followed to raise his grievances.

Yes he could have personally raised his government’s concerns directly with the Forum chair or with the secretary general of the Forum, without the need to be dramatic about it by shouting and stormed around the conference hall before making his exit.

Or he could have got his key allies in the Pacific, and there are quite a few of them, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Samoa to name but three, to address this matter swiftly and amicably.

In fact the latter did take place, according to people close to the matter under discussion. Fiji’s Frank Bainimarama telephoned (as he was in Fiji and did not attend the summit) the host of the Forum and President of Nauru, Baron Waqa to convey Beijing’s displeasure at the way their delegation had been treated.

Samoa’s Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Neioti Aiono Sailele Malielegao also weighted into the disputation by sending off a strongly-worded letter to Waqa and threatening to call off the summit if the Chinese delegation were not accorded the same courtesies as the rest of them. This letter was dispatched a day or two before the actual Forum proper began, so he was still the Forum chair.

Papua New Guinea on the other hand voted with its feet so to speak. The treatment of the Chinese delegation was given as one of the reasons Prime Minister Peter O’Neil opted to – like Fiji’s Bainimarama – give this year’s Forum a miss, sending instead his foreign minister Rimbink Pato.

But all these theatrics, if we can call it that, are in our view unnecessary and avoidable. You cannot really blame China if you start shifting the proverbial goal post midway through the game, or actually a few days before leaders were due to arrive in Nauru for their annual conclave. You do not issue guests with their entry visa only to inform them a few weeks later that the issuance was a mistake and that it would be withdrawn, which practically meant that all members of the Chinese delegation to the 49th Forum had to travel without their diplomatic passports and would be treated like any ordinary visitor to Nauru, stripped of all the VIP courtesies and privileges.

You also do not change the speaking rules at the eleventh hour by telling China that they are not entitled to address the meeting because their delegation head is not a cabinet minister and accordingly, non-ministers ouught to submit their presentations to the chair and are not entitled to address leaders.

One does not fly thousands of kilometres from Beijing to the tiny island in the Pacific Ocean only to be told that they have been stripped of their VIP status and would not be able to address the meeting! It is no wonder the head of delegation for China was exasperated if not bitterly annoyed.

No one needs to be Enstein to guess the reasons behind this poor treatment. Nauru, as host of this year’s Forum recognises not China but Taiwan. The auditorium in which the leaders were meeting in Nauru was built by Taiwan. In fact the Boeing 737-200 jets that flew in many of the Forum delegates were also donated by Taiwan.

Be that at it may, no government delegation ought to be treated in such an appalling if not mediocre way.

When a group of Pacific journalists (including the editor of this magazine) were detained at Jackson International Airport as they arrived for the 46th Pacific Islands Forum that Papua New Guinea was hosting in 2015 because they did not have the journalist visa on their passports, a call was made for the Forum Secretariat to work on a template that features minimum standard requirements all interested hosts of the Forum must agree to and abide by.

Waiving journalist visa should be included in that template. So should be the offering of VIP courtesies and privileges to all state delegations.

Taipei may find Beijing contemptible but both capitals are long standing donors and therefore partners of the 19 countries and territories that are members of the Pacific Islands Forum, and much as they disliked each other, both have a place and role in our part of the Ocean.

With another ally of Taiwan, Tuvalu destined to host next year’s 50th Forum Leaders’ summit, no one can rule out the likelihood of this on-going spat between the two Chinas to reach the shores of Funafuti. And we should not expect such diplomatic tit for tat to end unless a hosting of the Pacific Island Forum’s minimum standard requirement template is adopted and strictly adhered to.

WE wish the Director-General of the Forum Fisheries Agency, Dr Manu Tupou-Roosen, every success in the challenging task ahead.

With years of experience in the agency and the intense talks around fisheries each year, she is well placed to take over from the outgoing James Movick.

Much like her predecessor, Tupou-Roosen is a smiling, polite Pacific Islander – well-spoken, confident, friendly and unassuming.

But beneath that tropical exterior is a steely resolve to get the work done and an attitude that no challenge is unsurmountable.

In negotiations with Distant Water Fishing Nations like the United States, Japan, China and Taiwan, Tupou-Roosen has not been intimidated by posturing and threats.

The most recent talks on tuna at the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission in Passay City, the Philippines, dragged into the early hours of the morning – forced to a large extent by the refusal of larger nations to make concessions for the owners of the resources.

The success of the negotiations for the Pacific was due largely to the work of the FFA team of which Tupou-Roosen was an integral part, preparing to step into the new role.

Marine Domain Awareness

Tupou-Roosen will commence her new appointment in November 2018 as head of the 17-member agency which comprises Australia, the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Regional Fisheries Minister have expressed their wholehearted support for the new appointee, confident that she has been prepared sufficiently through years of on the job training.

Fisheries has been recognised as a multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral issue with huge potential to provide economic opportunities at national and regional level.

An area which will demand Tupou-Roosen’s immediate attention will be Marine Domain Awareness and the securing of maritime boundaries.

Twenty per cent of the world’s ocean falls in the Exclusive Economic Zones of Pacific Island Countries and Territories.

That portion of the ocean is under increasing threat as demand for tuna grows in the developed world whose own fish stocks have been severely depleted.

While the Pacific has generally spoken with a single voice on fisheries management, the pressure from outside the region – mainly China with its quest for resources – has started to affect solidarity.

Tupou-Roosen will need to negotiate and maneuver between nations if the Pacific is to remain united and demand recognition for its tuna stocks as well as securing the best possible price.

Curb human rights abuses

She will also need to take up the request by Forum Fisheries Ministers to address continued human rights abuses on fishing vessels operating in the Pacific region.

This will include the improved labour standards for all crew. Looking towards the WCPFC meeting the issues Tupou-Roosen will take up on behalf of the region include:

• Maintaining the strength of the tropical tuna measure and progressing the high seas limits and allocation process;

• Agreeing a Target Reference Point for the South Pacific albacore tuna stock that promotes recovery from economic overfishing and progressing the Harvest Strategy Workplan;

• Establishing a more structured approach to addressing SIDS Special Requirements through a Strategic Investment Plan;

• Advancing anFFAproposalfor animproved Compliance

Monitoring Scheme that ensures WCPFC members’ compliance with WCPFC measures while addressing procedural unfairness and disproportionate burden on SIDS inherent in the current measure.

It is not an easy task, but we are confident that Tupou-Roosen is more than suited to the challenge and will acquit herself well.

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