“Elevated military tensions in the Pacific region created by China and the United States and its allies, including Australia, are doing little to address the real threat to the region posed by climate change,” the statement said.
“These countries have done very little to address their own greenhouse gas emissions, despite the statements of intent from these countries.”
Leaders say adequate funding for the losses and damages caused by climate change should be addressed by Australia, China and the US in their engagement with the Pacific.
They also expressed concern over major powers developing strategies and policies for the region with little consultation with Pacific Island nations.
“The security and future of the Pacific must be determined primarily by Pacific Island nations and not by external powers competing for strategic interests in our region,” the statement said.
The former prime minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sopoaga, told SBS News that climate change continues to be the most serious existential threat to Pacific security.
“While we appreciate and recognize the potential threat in terms of military matters, we want to underscore that we cannot ignore or refocus our attention on the seriousness of climate change and its impact on the lives of the people of the Pacific,” he said. .
Mr Sopoaga called on the Australian government to put climate change at the forefront of policies relating to the security of the Pacific region and to engage in discussions with regional leaders.
“It is unfortunate that the Morrison government continues to ignore calls from Pacific island nations to immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly coal mining,” he said.
“We’ve been calling for the seriousness of climate change and the impact of climate change on us and Australia as well, and nothing has actually happened to show that the Morrison government is serious about this. It’s a shame.”
The statement from the Voice of the Pacific Elders group came after Australian defense and security leaders called on Australian political leaders to place climate and security issues at the center of Pacific policy to regain confidence in the region.
Former Australian Defense Force chief Chris Barrie said Australian political leaders must now immediately shift their focus to the security threat posed by climate change in the Pacific.
Former Chief of the Australian Defense Force Admiral Chris Barrie (Ret.) says Australia must place climate and security issues at the center of Pacific policy Source: provided / Australian Security Leaders Climate Group / Rohan Thomson
“For days our national debate was clouded by concerns over China’s growing influence in the Pacific, but now we have heard firsthand from former Pacific presidents that climate change is their main security concern,” said Admiral Barrie.
“In response, our political leaders must immediately shift their focus away from the scare campaign and confront the greatest security threat we all face, namely climate change, if we are to restore our relationship with our closest neighbour.”