Days after two cyclones made landfall on Vanuatu within the span of 48 hours, ministers from Pacific Island nations are gathering in the nation’s capital from today to deliberate on building towards regional solidarity around a managed phaseout of fossil fuels.
This Ministerial Dialogue, hosted by the Governments of Vanuatu and Tuvalu in Port Vila, follows on from COP27 in Egypt, where the Governments of Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Fiji hosted a Ministerial Dialogue aimed at navigating a rapid, global phaseout of fossil fuels while continuing to sustainably develop. At the close of COP27, more than 80 countries were in support of a phaseout of all fossil fuels.
Vanuatu, home to 300,000 people, has the highest disaster risk on the planet – and the recent back-to-back cyclones only highlight the Pacific’s vulnerability to escalating climate risks. Like all Pacific Island nations, the country is disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis but continues to show great climate leadership. Just days before the cyclones hit, Vanuatu secured a historic motion supported by 105 countries to ask the International Court of Justice to define what legal responsibility countries have for not acting on the climate crisis.
Scientific evidence shows that committed emissions from existing fossil fuel energy infrastructure jeopardizes the 1.5 °C goal, and nearly half of existing fossil fuel production sites need to be shut down early if global heating is to be limited to 1.5ºC. This means that there is no room for any new expansion of coal, oil, and gas production. To date, current international climate change frameworks have not constrained fossil fuel extraction at a rate consistent with the global temperature goal, and a liveable future hangs in the balance.
Joseph Sikulu, 350.org Pacific Managing Director says: “To have a fighting chance of keeping global heating below 1.5 degrees, the world needs to rapidly phase out coal, oil and gas. The question now is, what comes next for Pacific countries, with almost negligible emissions, that currently rely on fossil fuels for transport and energy access?
At the heart of a Just Transition is that no one is left behind, especially those who have contributed the least to the climate crisis. That means ensuring our communities have access to alternative energy in the wake of a climate disaster and Pacific governments have the resources to implement national-level transition plans. A transition without these is neither just nor equitable, and to make the energy transition without giving space for the Pacific to lead and thrive would be replacing one bad system with another. The global shift away from fossil fuels must not replicate the extraction, exclusion and inequality of the fossil fuel industry.”
Lavetanalagi Seru, Regional Policy Coordinator, Pacific Islands Climate Action Network(PICAN) says: “Every natural disaster is now a fossil-fuelled disaster, exacerbated further by the world’s unwillingness to break its addiction to fossil fuels. Pacific people and our economies are in a constant state of recovery stemming from a crisis that we have contributed to the least. Once again, Pacific leaders are exemplifying the leadership that is required, by coming together to discuss a just transition that supports Pacific Islanders and ensures that no one is left behind.
We need world leaders to join hands with us in the Pacific and tackle the climate crisis at its source: by stopping coal, oil and gas expansion, planning a scale-down in production, and supporting a just transition to a low-carbon system that provides energy access and sustainable development for all.”
Tanya Afu from the Solomon Islands Climate Action Network (SICAN) says that: “The pacific region contributes negligibly to the carbon emissions, yet are greatly impacted by the impacts of the climate crisis. Our communities have been hammered and displaced by tropical cyclones, heavy rainfall and flooding, and sea level rise. To address this, it is very important to phase out coal, oil and fossil fuel. Our pacific government and leaders at the Ministerial Dialogue in Vanuatu must work together to come up with solutions and a way forward that will ensure a transition that is just and equitable for all our communities.”
Richard Gokrun, Node Coordinator, Tuvalu Climate Action Network (TuCAN) says that: “The intensity and frequency of natural disasters in our Pacific region is triggered by the excessive emissions by wealthiest countries prioritizing economic gains instead of focusing on human rights. These emissions accelerate rising global temperatures, exposing the most vulnerable countries to very real climate threats. We bear the cost of these climate crises and endure the adverse impacts of cyclones, droughts, sea level rise, displacement, loss and damage, etc.
We salute our Pacific Leaders at the Ministerial Dialogue in Vanuatu to call for the managed phase out of fossil fuel. We urge world leaders to join in solidarity with the Pacific to prioritize emissions reduction and meet Paris Agreement targets. In addition to this, our commitment to the environment needs to extend beyond mitigation measures, to ensure the safety and future of our communities.” .