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Statement on Climate Change to Pope Francis by President Baron Waqa of Nauru on behalf of the Pacific Region
 
AUDIENCE BETWEEN THE PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM LEADERS AND HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
 
 
Pacific Island Leaders’ – Vatican Audience
Saturday, 11 November 2017
Vatican, Italy
 
 
 
Holy Father,
 
It is indeed an honour to deliver this statement this morning, on behalf of my colleague Leaders here present.
 
We, Leaders of the Pacific nations here today are represented by the Presidents of the Republic of Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands and French Polynesia; the Prime Ministers of the Cook Islands and Vanuatu; the Vice President of the Federated States of Micronesia; the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa; the Ministers for Pacific People and Climate change from New Zealand and Special Envoys from Australia and Papua New Guinea.
 
We have travelled great distances from our island homes in the Pacific Ocean. We, the people of Micronesia (where I am from), Polynesia and Melanesia, are stewards of this vast ocean continent.  We are mindful of our responsibilities to take care of this global asset and the natural resources bestowed upon us, now and for our future generations.
 
As one Blue Pacific region, we have built solidarity through collective action and one voice in the global arena. Collective action that is reflective of age-old traditional values that are very dear to us – values of communal ownership and collective delivery for the benefit of all our peoples. 
 
So has been our strong advocacy on climate change and its impacts on our island homes, our people, our environment and indeed our future generations.
 
We are at the forefront of the impacts of climate change. The devastating impacts of cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis in recent years, have resulted in enormous losses for our smaller island economies which have taken decades to build. However, it does not stop there. 
 
Increasing sea-levels diminish the land that we live on; increasing the salinity of our water that impacts on our food security; and the disappearance of our land could threaten our very sovereignty. 
 
Holy Father, your 2015 encyclical Laudato Si, re-invigorated the discussion on recognising, first and foremost, the most vulnerable to climate change.  The Pacific has borne the brunt of this existential threat at no direct fault of ours.  We need to ensure that the world takes some responsibility and commit to a loss and damage clause in Bonn. 
 
We recognise the moral authority that you carry and commend the strong voice that you have added to the discourse on climate change. We are here to seek your support to strengthen our message to the world.   At COP 23 we will stress the need to uphold the spirit of the 2015 Paris Agreement and urge all Parties to reinvigorate their commitments to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. 
 
The 1.5°C threshold for us, is a matter of survival.   There is no other choice for us. There only remains a few years before we exceed CO2 levels that will make temperature rise to levels that will see many parts of the Pacific disappear.   
 
Laudato Si emphasises the need for a conversation that includes everyone, recognising that the impacts of climate change is not discriminatory and affects society as a whole. A key outcome for the Pacific would be a well-defined Talanoa Facilitative Dialogue to generate political momentum for all Parties to the COP to meet commitments in the Paris Agreement.  
 
I have often wondered of the influence that we as Small Island States can command on the global stage. I am assured now that as a collective, as one Blue Pacific region, we can go the distance. 
 
It is, indeed, a proud moment for us to have the Republic of Fiji, presiding over COP 23.  Our collective advocacy on Climate Change and Oceans can impact this global dialogue.
 
Our identity as a region, is closely intertwined with the Ocean which is central to our livelihoods. I invite Prime Minister Henry Puna of Cooks Islands to speak of our Pacific Ocean. 
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