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The Pacific needs to strongly secure its future as a Blue Pacific continent – particularly in the increasing geostrategic competition between major global powers, namely the U.S and China.
Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Dame Meg Taylor, who’s just returned from the Shangri-La dialogue in Singapore reiterated the need for Pacific countries to raise climate change as a security issue for the region – particularly in dealing with new and emerging powers showing interest in the Pacific region.
“We were, for the first time on a panel to talk about the importance of climate emergency as a security issue. This is our threat and what our leaders want is that climate change becomes a security issue through the United Nations. I am not sure if there is an appetite for that at the UN Security Council now, that’s what the Secretary General said but we need to continue to push for that, Dame Meg said referring to recent discussions with the UN Secretary General in Suva.
Dame Meg said comments by the Commander of the Fiji Military Forces, Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto supported the Pacific’s push that any powers showing interest in the region must align themselves to the region’s agenda – which is the recognition that climate change as the single greatest threat to the security, livelihoods and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific.
Commander Naupoto told the high-level Shangri-La Dialogue that three elephants were fighting for influence in the Pacific – the U.S, China and climate change.
“Of the three, climate change was winning - climate change exerts the most influence, if you like, on the countries in our part of the world,” Naupoto said.
Next year the Pacific and climate change will be included in the Shangri-La dialogue. Dame Meg is happy that climate change will be featured on the agenda of this important strategic defence summit in Asia.
“And the visit of the UN Secretary General here in the Pacific has given us greater fervour to keep on pushing for recognition that climate change is a major security threat to peoples in the Pacific. And what is happening to us in the region needs to be heard, said Dame Meg explained to PACNEWS in an interview in Suva this week.
The Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General said, “We have seen an increase and renewed interest from major players in our region – recently the President of the U.S met with leaders from the three north Pacific U.S territories and Britain is returning to set up presence in many Pacific countries.
Securing the future of the Pacific means securing maritime boundaries and baselines for Forum member countries, said Dame Meg.
“We too as the Pacific need to think about our future and what is means for us in terms of our maritime boundaries and how to secure our exclusive economic zones (EEZs) so that if in time to come some of our communities have to move, we need to figure out what will happen in terms of securing our interests as an ocean continent.
“If countries lose their baseline, what happens to their EEZs? Our concern now is to secure the baselines. If you lose this because your island is overwhelmed by sea level rise, what can we do to secure the baseline identification? As the Secretariat for the Leaders, our view is that we have to work hard to secure the boundaries and the baseline because in 50 years or 100 years and if the trajectories are right, some of our communities will be forced to move away from the islands and who will own those boundaries, said Dame Meg.
The Pacific Community (SPC) as the leading technical and scientific institution for the region is leading work on maritime boundaries with support from the Australian Attorney General’s Office while the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat is working on issues around baseline survey with support from New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
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