CLIMATE change poses an alarming threat to food systems and food security in the Pacific islands, warned leaders of nine small island developing states (SIDS), representatives of regional development bodies, New Zealand and Australia at a meeting chaired by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.
The meeting took place ahead of the Pacific leaders’ participation at the UN Climate Conference COP23 in Bonn, and culminated in the leaders signing a joint statement – a call for action that they will take to COP23.
In the statement, the Pacific leaders called upon all countries to ‘exceed previous commitments and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C as above pre-industrial levels, to reduce the adverse impacts on food security and nutrition, coastal habitats and the livelihoods of those depending on oceans’.
The 1.5 degrees limit will allow ‘for a greater change at maintaining resilient livelihoods and promote partnerships for sustainable development in the Pacific Islands’, the statement read.
The group also raised concerns about the negative impacts of malnutrition evidenced by the growing incidence of Noncommunicable Diseases, which account for 75 percent of adult deaths in the Pacific, and called for ‘more proactive and integrated actions to promote policies to tackle food insecurity challenges, especially on issues related to obesity, stunting, wasting and NCDs’.
The group acknowledged the importance of the FAO and partners’ Global Action Programme on Food Security and Nutrition in SIDS, which recommends action at global, regional, national and local level to accelerate food security and nutrition, calling for its endorsement and immediate implementation.
With Pacific island states highly dependent on their oceans for their livelihoods and food security, leaders reiterated their anxiety about ecosystem degradation, and called upon the international community to assist in maximising the sustainable utilization of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors for the benefit of small island developing states.
The Pacific islands are among the most environmentally vulnerable nations in the world. Drought, extreme high tides, violent winds, and storm surges pose major risks to small island nations, and their efforts to achieve sustainable development.
For many islands, the impact of climate change represents the gravest of threats to their survival and viability, including, for some, through the loss of territory.
In his opening remarks, Graziano da Silva shared the Pacific leaders’ concerns about the negative impact of climate change on food security and nutrition and its role in exacerbating the burden of malnutrition as well as the alarming overweight and obesity levels.
“You are suffering from things that you didn’t cause, from things you are not responsible for – the impact of climate change,” said the FAO Director-General said.
“This is what FAO offers – support so that you can face climate change; scale up growing local products as we see you import more and more food. Obesity is a big problem. It is an epidemic that we need to address. Together with partners such as WHO, we promote the uptake of healthy, fresh food – fruits, vegetable and fish instead of processed food. We promote local products – bread fruit, for which we have a pilot programme in the Marshal Islands, Samoa, Nauru, and which we want to scale up and multiply,” he added.
With Oceans Day events at COP23 under way, Graziano da Silva also highlighted the importance of the FAO Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA), ‘today’s main tool in the hands of the international community to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing’.
He urged all Pacific Island states to adhere to the agreement.
“You are countries with more water and natural resources to preserve than any other countries. This is why the Port State Measures Agreement is important. FAO is committed to support you to implement and monitor your PSMA process. We can provide assistance for your national legislations, training and funding to put the agreement in place. We will not be able to safeguard our ocean environment if we don’t combat illegal fishing,” said Graziano da Silva.
The political leaders at the high level meeting included: Taneti Maamau, President, Republic of Kiribati; Baron Waqa, President, Republic of Nauru; Hilda Heine, President, Republic of Marshall Islands; Yosiwo P. George, Vice President, Federated States of Micronesia; Henry Puna, Prime Minister, Cook Islands; Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas, Prime Minister, Republic of Vanuatu; Fiame Naomi Mataafa, Deputy Prime Minister, Samoa; Joshua Kalinoe, Special Envoy of the Prime Minister, Papua New Guinea; James Shaw, Minister for Climate Change, New Zealand; Aupito William Sio, Minister for Pacific Peoples, New Zealand, and Édouard Fritch, President, French Polynesia.
Other participants included: Colin Tukuitonga, Director-General, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary-General, Pacific Islands Forum, James Movick, Director-General, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency and Andrew Daka, Chief executive officer, Pan Pacific Power Association.