Taking the floor, Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown shone the spotlight on Pacific Island led solutions for climate change challenges faced by SIDS, yet not caused by SIDS.

Contributing to less than 1 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, Small Islands Developing States are amongst the most vulnerable as they sit on the frontlines of its impacts.

This imbalance is a grim reality all Small Islands Developing States must live with.

“One natural disaster for SIDS can wipe out years of prosperity – we all know this – we have all experienced this – and unfortunately, we continue to experience it in an increasingly frequent manner,” stated Prime Minister Brown as he outlined the need to continue advocating for greater investment in SIDS to increase resilience.

“The key to these efforts lies in finance – in wealth, and for many of us here today, access to climate finance remains a critical barrier to our sustainable development pursuits. In November last year Pacific Leaders approved the operationalisation of the Pacific Resilience Facility – a transformative regional financing mechanism, created by the Pacific for the Pacific. We are aiming for a starting target of 500M to address part of the critical climate finance disaster risk resilience needs of the Pacific through high impact projects being supported at the community level.”

Initial seed contributions from the Governments of the United States and China were boosted by Saudi Arabia of US$50 million and Australia of AUD$100 million.

Prime Minister Brown invited other countries to consider supporting the innovative financing facility, developed by the Pacific, to help the Pacific, build its resilience.

Prime Minister Brown stated Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) must continue to lead the way, trailblazing in areas where SIDS can no longer way to take climate action, deliver climate justice and ensure sustainable oceans management.

The Cook Islands sits within close to two million sqm of an EEZ; Pacific countries cover 20 percent of the world’s ocean and like all Pacific peoples, the Cook Islands have an imbedded culture of conservation and sustainable environmental management of their marine resources, practices sustained through generations.

Labelled as the Blue Pacific Continent, the Pacific Islands fully understand the value of our ocean.

As such in 2023, Pacific Leaders endorsed the creation of a regional Pacific Centre of Excellence on Deep Ocean Science. A Pacific driven solution to understanding more about this great resource, the collaborative centre will work with all interested stakeholders to further leverage knowledge, innovation, and empowerment.

“We recognise that implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the sustainable management of our global commons cannot be done without strong scientific knowledge of our ocean, in its vastness. SIDS continue to lead the way in sustainable oceans management,” said Prime Minister Brown.

“The establishment and management of Marine Protected Areas has been part and parcel of Pacific development approaches for decades. Our regional management framework on tuna fisheries has ensured healthy tuna stocks that continue to feed our people and the world, has resulted in better economic returns, and continue to implement effective monitoring and surveillance to protect our shared fisheries resource. Many of us have passed legislation to reduce single use plastics in our countries – even though we did not put plastic in the ocean. We have also created model regional laws that protect the wealth of Pacific genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge.”

On the cusp of adopting the Antigua and Barbuda Agenda for SIDS (ABAS), the Cook Islands and the Pacific region welcome this move committing to continue to work collaboratively with all SIDS and the international community to ensure meaningful and lasting action for SIDS in years to come.

“Despite facing disproportionate vulnerabilities, we must continue to lead the way.”

The Cook Islands Prime Minister and Chair of the Pacific Island Forum presented his statement on day one of the Fourth International Conference on Small Islands Developing States in Antigua and Barbuda.

The SIDS4 conference is held from 27 to 30 May 2024.