Forum Leaders Declaration on Preservation of Maritime Zones launched

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By Pita Ligaiula in Glasgow

Fijian Prime Minister and Forum Chair Voreqe Bainimarama says the ocean is central to the people of the Pacific and called for urgent action to reduce and prevent the irreversible impacts of climate change on our Ocean.

Speaking at the launch of the Declaration on Preservation of Maritime Zones in the face of sea level rise for the Pacific at the margins of COP26 in Glasgow, Bainimarama said it is no longer business as usual, and the world must accelerate all efforts to restore the planet’s health as the wrath of climate change intensifies.

“It is our geography, our culture and our economy. It is at the heart of our existence and we see no solutions without it.

“As a public regional good, the health and resilience of the ocean features very heavily in the development of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. As such and in line with our 2021 Ocean Statement, we call for urgent action to reduce and prevent the irreversible impacts of climate change on our ocean. We also call for the integration of ocean into the UNFCCC.

“The alarm bells have been sounded loudly and this time more deafening than ever. This is the new normal right throughout our globe, from sea-level rise, flash flooding, cyclones, and storm surges, to droughts and bush fires. If we continue with our current actions or inaction, we will send our Blue Planet –– our global canoe –– sinking into the abyss,” said Bainimarama.

Bainimarama said these unprecedented times call for unprecedented solutions, and as large oceanic sovereign states of the Blue Pacific they look no further than to our endowment, our lifeblood – our Ocean – for these innovative solutions.

“We have just witnessed one such unprecedented solution – the Leaders’ Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate Change-related Sea-level rise.

“I am proud to have presented to you the united appeal and call from the Leaders of the Blue Pacific to save our low-lying coastal developing states, and our entire world, from climate change-related sea-level rise.

“Indeed, sea-level rise “is a defining issue that imperils the livelihoods and well-being of our peoples, and undermines the realisation of a peaceful, secure and sustainable future for our region” and for our world,” said Bainimarama.

He said the recent IPCC Report underlines continued sea-level rise in coastal areas throughout the 21st century, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion.

“Extreme sea level events that previously occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century.

“Changes to the ocean, including warming, more frequent marine heatwaves, ocean acidification, and reduced oxygen levels, have been clearly linked to human influence. These changes affect both ocean ecosystems and the people that rely on them.

“Nations like Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Republic of the Marshall Islands are at the frontline of this global crisis, with the rising sea eating away our shorelines, leaving our homes and people exposed to the ruthless onslaught of coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion,” Bainimarama explained.

He said Fiji have relocated villagers from Vunidogoloa, Narikoso, and four others which are no longer viable for human habitation.

“Climate-driven displacement isn’t a doomsday proposition. It is happening now across our Blue Pacific, and I shudder to think of what the future of my grandchildren and your grandchildren will be like if we continue down this path.

“The Declaration is not just another sheet of paper. Every word, as pronounced by our Leaders tonight, carries the voices of our people, our children, our plight and our fight to save our people and our home from this crisis.

“We do so by upholding the primacy of international law, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, as the global legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out. The Declaration is our good faith interpretation of the 1982 UNCLOS on an issue that is critical to all of us,” PM Bainimarama said.

PACNEWS coverage from Glasgow is possible with the assistance of the Pacific Islands Forum through the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner (OPOC)