Mr President, Honourable Pacific Island Forum Members and Forum Dialogue Partners;
It is a real privilege to address the Pacific Islands Forum, and a pleasure to be here in the Marshall Islands.
This is my first visit to these beautiful Islands – indeed, the first of any British Minister in living memory – but it is not my first to this region.
I had the pleasure of visiting Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands in April – just a few months after Her Majesty The Queen had asked Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, to represent her in her Pacific Realms to mark her Diamond Jubilee.
Britain’s relationship with the Pacific region is both strong and wide-ranging. But when I was in the region in April, one issue came up again and again. That issue was climate change.
That’s not surprising, because while Pacific island countries contribute just 0.03 percent of global greenhouse emissions, you are among the first in the world to feel the effects of climate change.
This isn’t just about securing our future; it’s about securing the environment as we know it today. If we fail to take action we will all feel the effects, and the generations to come will pay dearly for our inaction.
I’m therefore proud that the UK and my government lead by David Cameron is at the very forefront of global action to tackle climate change.
We are home to businesses and institutions with world-leading expertise in renewable energy and climate change science, which are already helping communities here in the Pacific to manage their long-term resource needs.
We were the first country to pass domestic climate change legislation to reduce emissions - committing to an 80 per cent cut by 2050.
We are working tirelessly to raise ambitions for a global, legally-binding deal on emissions to be agreed by 2015 and to come into force by 2020.
And in doing so, we are working with countries like yours – through the Alliance of Small Island States – to highlight the immediate impacts.
These aren’t just empty words: as I said at a side-event we co-hosted with the Marshall Islands and the Climate Development Knowledge Network yesterday, the UK has spent over £60 million, about $90 million, on tackling climate change in this region in the last five years. And I am here representing the UK today not only as a member of the Post Forum Dialogue, but also as the newest member of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme – the region’s leading body on climate and environment issues.
So it is in this spirit of commitment and friendship that I want to express the UK’s unwavering support for the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership, and to commend countries across the Pacific for their efforts to garner support for it. I strongly encourage others to do the same.
In the run-up to this Forum – and over the past two days – the Marshall Islands and the Forum Secretariat have asked people across the world to support the Declaration and to stand with them against climate change. In the United Kingdom, you have a friend determined to do exactly that.
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