By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor in Port Vila

More Pacific countries are expected to join the global campaign to phase out the production and stockpiling of fossil fuels – after this week’s dialogue to build regional support and solidarity towards just transition away from fossil fuels.

Last year, Vanuatu and Tuvalu initiated what is now a growing global movement to push for a Fossil Fuels Non-Proliferation Treaty.

In September 2022 Vanuatu became the first country to publicly call for the negotiation of a Fossil Fuel Treaty on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly and in December 2022, Tuvalu became the first nation to call for a Fossil Fuel Treaty in the plenary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Since then, 70 cities, 1,800 civil society organisations, 101 noble laureates, 3,000 scientists and academics and more than 580,000 individuals across the globe have endorsed the call for a global treaty to phase out fossil fuels.

Both countries are co-hosting a ministerial dialogue in Port Vila this week to bring that global discussion on fossil fuels to the Pacific.

In his intervention, Tonga’s Minister for Infrastructure, Sevenitini Toumo’ua reminded Ministers that the Paris Agreement adopted in 2018 didn’t mention fossil fuels and the COP27 outcome didn’t mention oil and gas.

“It’s time for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, said Minister Toumo’ua.

Supporting the call from Tonga, Dr Tzeporah Berman, the chair of Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty said the proposed treaty has three pillars – to prevent the proliferation of oil, coal and gas by ending all new exploration and production, phase out existing production of fossil fuels in line with the 1.5 global climate goal and fast track real solutions and a just transition for every worker, community and country.

She urged Pacific countries to support Vanuatu and Tuvalu’s campaign to realise a new global treaty be negotiated.

“Any new expansion on fossil fuel production must be delayed or stopped. Pacific countries should take the lead in calling out fossil fuel production expansion is a threat to the environment.

“Given what Vanuatu has just experienced with the two tropical cyclones and an earthquake, this serves as a daily reminder of the need to move away from fossil fuel. If we can stop them, then there is the option for countries to take big producers and emitters to court, said Dr Berman.

Tuvalu’s finance minister Seve Paeniu told Pacific Ministers at the regional dialogue his country is investing in building a core group of countries to push the agenda globally.

“My government organised a strategy retreat on fossil fuels in New York recently attended by six countries – Vanuatu, Tonga, Nauru, Colombia, Ireland and Sri-Lanka.

“We will continue to work with this group of champions, set clear timeline on what we want to achieve and hold regular discussions with them, said Minister Paeniu.

Dr Berman said the Fossil Fuel Treaty Secretariat’s ambition is to engage at least 20 countries to join the proposed treaty this year.

Fossil fuels remain the largest driver of climate change – responsible for 86 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in the past decade, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).