By Suzanne Maxx

SUVA, Fiji, August 16, 2016 (ENS) – Fiji’s Olympic Gold medal win in rugby on Friday was a first for the South Pacific island nation, and more historic winning measures were in the works at the first standing Pacific Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting, which also took place Friday.


Fijians celebrate their Olympic rugby gold medal at Nadi Airport, Fiji. (Photo © Suzanne Maxx)

The ministers of two Pacific Forum member countries – the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and Papua New Guinea (PNG) – announced that they are going to ratify the Paris Climate Agreement reached last December by virtually all the world’s countries.

Micronesia and PNG will join the rest of the Pacific Island States in action at the Pacific Secretariat Press Conference at the Fiji regional headquarters.

The ratification by these two states, PNG and FSM, moves the world closer to the day when the Paris Climate Agreement will take effect.

The agreement goes into full force when 55 United Nations member states, representing more than 55 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, ratify.


PNG Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato, left, the Pacific Forum’s current chairman, with Lorin Robert, Micronesian foreign affairs secretary. (Photo courtesy Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat)

“Climate change was at first too academic, but now we are the science,” said Lorin Robert, Micronesia’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs, and the incoming Chair of the Pacific Forum.

Fiji was the first state to ratify the Paris Climate Agreement, leading other nations to complete the long process birthed through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the process of curbing runaway climate change that came of age last December in Paris at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, or COP 21.

The Pacific Forum meetings last week culminated with focused attention on climate change, which is now a collective priority of the Pacific Region leaders.

Their concerted action is needed to come up with the measures that follow what they championed at COP21. By their ratifications, the leaders are pledging to hold their emission of greenhouse gases to the limits that will keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 Celsius as compared with pre-industrial levels.


Suva Bay, Fiji August 2016 (Photo © Suzanne Maxx)

The ratification announcements by PNG and Micronesia came at the end of a week of meetings focused on the Pacific Island Regions’ strategy. There is a framework in place for the Pacific Region that enables the Pacific Island nations to work as a group on collective proposals and policies to better address the growing vulnerability of the region to sea level rise and increased storms, and to develop disaster resilience.

The biggest area stakeholder of the entire Pacific Ocean, the South Pacific Region faces complicated issues that arise from living with the ocean.

Many people have lost their homes, and live as climate change refugees.

Island nations face risk management as well as sustainability issues, and the effect of rising sea levels on land ownership is an emerging issue.

The foreign ministers covered the crucial topics of coastal fisheries, deep sea mining and regional strategy in a collective, targeted and coordinated manner.


Fijian family plans its recovery after Tropical Cyclone Winston hit the island nation, destroying their home, February 25, 2016 (Photo by UN Women Asia and the Pacific)

Small Island Developing States, especially across the Pacific, are building towards freedom from the emergencies of island life, such as rising seas and cyclones.

Alternative transportation, including aviation and boat regional routing, plus air space are long-standing challenges, as is emergency planning.

Renewable energy is needed to build capacity and grow local jobs, and the transfer of up-to-date technology is increasingly important as the financial resources begin to trickle in.

Fiji is one of the first two countries in the Pacific to access project funding from the Green Climate Fund. US$31 million was awarded for an urban water supply and wastewater management project in 2015.

Fiji also is a recipient of a readiness grant from the German government.

Fiji’s wins as a team player in the Pacific Island Region send the message that a Small Island State can grow as part of a team and choose the kind of development most in harmony with nature.

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