Pacific Islands Forum – Behind the News

Pacific Islands Forum – Behind the News


OLIVIA MASON: Welcome to Tuvalu, a South Pacific country
with beautiful reefs, white, sandy beaches
and a rich and colourful culture. This is where
Australia’s prime minister and a bunch of other leaders
spent a lot of last week, but it wasn’t for a holiday. They were here
for the Pacific Islands Forum. The Pacific Islands are a group
of thousands of islands and atolls here in the Pacific Ocean, including dozens
of different countries, like Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, PNG and, of course, Tuvalu. As close neighbours,
Australia and New Zealand are also part of the forum, which is held every year
to talk about things like trade, education and tourism, and most importantly
for a lot of people here, climate change. It’s a massive issue here in Tuvalu. The average height
of the islands here is less than two metres, which means any rise in sea level
is seriously bad news. In fact, a lot of people are worried the whole country will disappear
in the next century. And it’s not just Tuvalu. Experts say rising seas
and extreme weather will have a devastating effect
all around the Pacific. I want the whole world to know
that climate change is real. It is like a thief in the night. It will not only steal,
but kill and destroy. Timoci lives in Fiji, which has seen many bad cyclones
and extreme weather events – something scientists say
will get more frequent and more extreme
as global temperatures rise. It is important for me to take action
against climate change, to inspire or to encourage
other young generations. I want them to know
that their voice can also be heard by the world leaders. For years, Pacific Islanders
have been pleading with bigger and more developed countries,
including Australia, to take serious action, and that was their main message
here in Tuvalu. I said, “You are concerned
about your…saving your economy “or your, um,
situation in Australia. “I am concerned about
saving my people in Tuvalu.” They wanted the forum leaders
to sign an agreement that included
cutting carbon emissions and banning new coal power plants
and coalmines, but that wasn’t something the Australian prime minister
was prepared to do. Coal is an important industry here
that employs a lot of people, and while
the prime minister acknowledged the threat of climate change
to the Pacific, he said he had to look after
the interests of Australians. Eventually,
a new agreement was written so Australia would sign. I’m pleased that we were able to reach the agreements
that we have, and, um…and that provides
a platform for going forward. Mr Morrison also promised $500 million of aid money
would go towards helping Pacific Islanders
deal with climate change. But while that was welcome, Tuvalu’s prime minister said
he was disappointed. No matter how much money
you put on the table, it doesn’t give you the excuse
to not to do the right thing, that is cutting down your emissions, including not opening
your coalmines. In fact, a lot of Pacific leaders
criticised Australia and said we should be doing more. While the forum is over
for another year, many people here in the Pacific are hoping that
their message won’t be forgotten. I want everyone to know that, um… ..we need to work together, um, we need to act
and walk the talk.

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