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Paris agreement not enough for Pacific nations

Last year's Paris agreement on climate change was "a positive outcome' but did nowhere near enough to address the Pacific's vulnerabilities, a Pacific Island leader said yesterday.

Kosi Latu, the director-general of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), which has 26 member nations, said: “I think it’s a positive outcome for our regions and a positive outcome for our countries … but it’s not finished yet.”

Latu was giving the closing address to the ‘In the Eye of the Storm’ Pacific climate change conference.

The Secretariat had had several “key asks” for the Paris conference, most notably “a strong legally binding agreement,” recognition of small island developing states in the Pacific, an agreement to minimise temperature rises to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and mitigation “architecture”.

Overall, Latu said he was happy with the agreement’s “balance of adaptation and mitigation”. Most of the Secretariat's key demands were met, though Latu called the document “a compromise agreement”, adding: “One of my disappointments with the Paris agreements is that it didn’t address the issues of oceans.”

He was also disappointed by the document’s treatment of small island developing nations. He had hoped to see special provisions for these countries, in acknowledgment that they were the “most vulnerable of the vulnerable” to climate change. The Paris agreement also failed to explicitly provide aid for Pacific countries hit by natural disaster.

The relatively low population of the Pacific should not diminish its importance, Latu added. The area was “vast in terms of land and ocean” and larger than the whole of Europe. It also faced significant environmental challenges: “We’re talking about a region that is experiencing loss of biodiversity [and] faces challenges in terms of waste and marine pollution.”

Latu said Pacific Island nations “must lead the way,” in the international fight against climate change and should promptly ratify the Paris treaty. “We need to encourage countries to sign up,” he said.

SPREC’s new Pacific Climate Change Centre would help carry on the struggle, and the Secretariat planned a ‘Climate Hub Centre of Excellence’ to help member countries to implement the Paris agreement, he added.

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