- This year’s Pacific Islands Forum is coming to a close.
- The Heads of State and Government of the South Pacific region, such as the Heads of State and Government of Australia, Fiji and Samoa, met in the Cook Islands.
- Topics of interest included climate change and China’s growing influence.
For several years, climate change and its consequences have occupied an increasing space in the Pacific Islands Forum. This is not surprising: coral reefs are bleaching, fish stocks are declining, and sea levels are rising and threaten to collapse entire countries.
Pacific leaders call for acceleration of renewable energy For them, climate change is not a theory, but a brutal reality, says Urs Walterlin. He is SRF’s Oceania correspondent. More and more islands can no longer be inhabited. Thousands of people have already lost their homes.
The other big topic at the South Pacific G18 summit was China’s growing influence in the region. The country has expanded significantly into the Pacific region in the past decade. Walterlin said that China is pursuing “soft diplomacy” there.
The country gains goodwill by investing in infrastructure and inviting politicians to Beijing. They grant large loans that small countries may never be able to repay. The result: dependency. China’s tactics are working. Many small Pacific countries have declared their loyalty to China. This gives China a voice in international forums, such as the United Nations.
As the largest and richest neighbour, Australia plays an important role in the Pacific region. Many countries hold Australia, as the world’s largest coal exporter, indirectly responsible for climate change. So the central demand was that Australia should gradually reduce coal and gas production.
Australia is responding with a charm offensive, says Urs Walterlin. Australia pumps development money into the Pacific region. It also wishes to receive approximately 300 people from Tuvalu. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has reiterated that Australia is expanding its renewable energy capacity in the fight against climate change. But he did not mention that it wants to boost fossil fuel exports at the same time.
Climate change unites nations
The Pacific countries were not able to reach consensus on all issues. For example, there are differences when it comes to the issue of China’s influence, according to the Oceania correspondent. However, there is agreement on climate protection. “The collective fear of ruin is increasingly binding countries together.”
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