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Political leaders from the Asia-Pacific region signed a long-awaited security agreement during the 49th Pacific Islands Forum last week, a move they labelled as a strong indicator of their joint dedication towards addressing climate change, drug smuggling, and cybercrime in the region.

The Boe Declaration, named after the region in Nauru in which it was signed, has labelled climate change “the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security, and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific.”

The security agreement — an enhancement of an initial 18-year-long regional security pact — is intended to compel all forum nations to meet their Paris agreement objectives and “ensure effective progress on Pacific priorities” before the United Nations Convention on Climate Change Conference in Poland in December.

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“Leaders reaffirmed the importance of immediate urgent action to combat climate change," Pacific Island nations announced in a joint statement. "Leaders called on countries, particularly large emitters, to fully implement their Nationally Determined Contribution mitigation targets, including through the development and transfer of renewable energy, in line with committed timeframes."

Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga of South Pacific island Tuvalu stated the need to combat climate change is urgent, as low-lying Pacific nations could soon be submerged if sea levels continue to rise.  

"The issues are so critical for leaders of smaller island states because of their vulnerability to climate change," Sopoaga announced. "We appealed to forum leaders to endorse the Boe Declaration so we can walk the talk."

Regional leaders announced Australia tried to weaken the final statement from leaders. The final communique stated Australia would not support an associated stronger assertion from other Pacific Island Forum nations which called for the United States to urgently return to the Paris agreement.

Australia was represented by newly appointed Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne during the three-day long forum.

“We cannot have comprehensive robust emissions reductions unless the biggest emitter is there in the process. We cannot leave the United States out — they are responsible for 25% of global emissions,” Sopoaga stated.

Australia’s trepidation toward low-emissions climate policy is not unusual. The nation has long grappled with its own energy policy legislature and opposed robust climate language during previous global forums, according to climate policy expert Xavier Matsutaro.

Matsutaro told the Guardian Australia that the nation's climate change alliance with the Pacific was “dysfunctional.” He claimed Australia was like an “abusive spouse” to its Pacific neighbours, constantly juxtaposing giving copious aid to relieve the consequences of climate change and simultaneously sabotaging efforts to address the issue in policy agreements.

"They’re responsible for making our declarations weaker sometimes in the region,” he stated. “You could say it’s a bit of a dysfunctional relationship.”

During the forum, Payne announced Australia would, however, advance "strategic policy development" in the region via the initiation of an Australian Pacific Security College, whilst simultaneously building a Pacific Fusion Centre to attempt to "strengthen the ability of Pacific governments to enforce their laws and protect their sovereignty”.

The Pacific region contributes the least amount of carbon globally, but its citizens have been disproportionately and immensely affected by extreme climate disasters and rising sea levels. 


Defend the Planet

Climate Change Labelled Region's 'Biggest Threat' During Pacific Islands Forum

By Madeleine Keck