By Pita Ligaiula at COP28 in Dubai, UAE

At COP28, Pacific Ocean Commissioner Dr Filimon Manoni Monday emphasised the need for increased attention to oceans and their vital role in addressing climate change.

As the first COP attended in his capacity as the Pacific Oceans Commissioner, Manoni acknowledged the progress made but highlighted the necessity of elevating the importance of oceans in the COP agenda.

“I think it is great to see the Pacific here in good numbers. And to see that a lot of us in different sectors are also present here at the COP to pursue what we want in terms of the important sectors associated with the climate issue,” said Commissioner Manoni.

While acknowledging the COP’s focus on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, Commissioner Manoni stressed the critical linkage between climate and oceans.

“There needs to be a lot more attention or recognition. I think maybe science is not there. But there is an important linkage between the climate and what happens to the oceans.”

Addressing the current placement of the oceans pavilion at the far end of the venue, Commissioner Manoni expressed the hope to move it closer to the centre of future discussions.

He indicated optimism for a potential “blue COP” at COP31, closer to the Pacific, and stressed the need for consistency and strategy in addressing ocean-related issues across consecutive COP sessions.

Commissioner Manoni, along with the governments of Palau and Kiribati, presented an initiative spanning COP28 to COP31, emphasising the importance of long-term strategies for addressing ocean-related challenges.

He urged global partners to recognise the proactive measures taken by Pacific nations in areas such as fisheries and called for genuine partnerships to support their initiatives.

“We come here having done the work ourselves. The kind of partnership we’re looking for at the global level is genuine partnerships to support this initiative because we are helping ourselves to help ourselves. And that is why the new way initiative is such a special initiative,” he explained.

In response to a question about embedding oceans and fisheries into the COP agenda, Commissioner Manoni acknowledged Australia’s efforts and expressed support from the Pacific.

He noted that discussions including important issues in the COP, particularly if it comes to the Pacific, would be a priority.

“I think Australia is taking the steps that they need to take towards COP 31. As you know, they’ve got the support of the Pacific. But it’s got some work to do in terms of securing that and tying that down,” Commissioner Manoni explained.

He stressed the importance of discussions on priorities and a combined approach with Australia.

Commissioner Manoni and Pacific nations remain hopeful for positive outcomes that reflect the urgency of addressing ocean-related challenges in the global climate agenda.

Former Fiji’s Ambassador to UN Satyendra Prasad said new COP28 draft text is deeply disappointing.

“For the BluePacific, 1.5 is not its guardrails: it is the finite boundary for human security and state viability.” he said.