Six of the smallest Pacific island nations facing a potential wipe-out from climate change have called for a global moratorium on new coal mines.
Leaders from the Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau and Tuvalu met on Monday in Port Moresby before the wider 16 nation Pacific Island Forum leaders summit, which include Australia and New Zealand later this week.
The leaders issued a unanimous special declaration on climate change demanding the world limit the global warming temperature increase to 1.5C and that countries uphold the principle of polluter pays.
‘We cannot afford to lock in any further fossil fuel emissions,” the declaration said. Green-blue economies must be the way of the future and no one should be left behind, ‘it said.
‘We are simply seeking the rights of smaller island states to survive,’ Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga told reporters.
The leaders are pleading with Australia and New Zealand to do more to combat global warming before the United Nations climate change conference in Paris in December.
Some islands are less than a metre above sea level and face disappearing under rising seas.
The ocean is already creeping up on graves on the Marshall Islands, and the Kiribati government has bought land in Fiji in case its entire population needs to move.
Palau President Tommy Remengesau acknowledged that the small island states’ declaration may not be popular with the entire PIF membership, alluding to Australia.
Asked how the leaders would convince Prime Minister Tony Abbott to give up Australia’s addiction to coal, Mr Sopoaga said they would be making a strong case for renewable energy.
Mr Remengesau said the time for leadership was now.
‘Our countries may be perceived as small but we are in fact pioneers and trailblazers in restoring balance to our earth,’ he said.
The leaders also discussed fisheries, cervical cancer, human rights issues in Indonesia’s West Papua and communications technology.
Fourteen Pacific leaders, excluding Australia and New Zealand, will meet for talks on trade negotiations and labour mobility on Tuesday.