Tonga joins group of nations calling for phase out of ‘coal, oil and gas’

Pacific Islands activists protest demanding climate action and loss and damage reparations at COP27 in Egypt Photo: DOMINIKA ZARZYCKA/AFP

Tonga has formally joined a group of nations calling for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Prime Minister of Tonga Hu’akavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni made the official announcement at the Fifth Pacific Regional Energy and Transport Ministers’ Meeting in Port Vila on Thursday.

Vanuatu and Tuvalu were the first state parties to endorse the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.

“Climate change is the single greatest threat to Tonga and Pacific Island countries, and Tonga therefore stands together with our neighbours in calling for urgent action to combat the root cause of this crisis,” Hu’akavameiliku said.

In March, Tonga joined a group of Pacific countries – Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Niue – making an ambitious call for a global phase out of fossil fuels, and a just transition from fossil fuels in the Pacific, the Port Vila Call.

“Now we urge all Pacific governments to join Tonga, Vanuatu and Tuvalu in publicly calling for the negotiation of a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty,” he said.

“A new global treaty can provide the framework for finance, technological support and knowledge sharing needed to ensure a just transition away from coal, oil and gas across the Pacific and in the world.”

Environmental organisation Pacific’s managing director Joseph Sikulu said Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Tonga have stepped up to the plate and now it is time for world leaders to decide if they want to be a part of the solution.

“As Pacific Climate Warriors, it fills us with hope to see our leaders continue to show the world true climate leadership,” Sikulu said.

Sikulu said this leadership is a commitment to do what is needed to transition Pacific economies away from fossil fuels and keep global warming to below 1.5 degrees.

“In Tonga we say, ‘Ko Tonga moʻunga ki he loto’ meaning, ‘in Tonga our mountains are within, our strength-hold is our heart’ and we thank the Tongan government for standing up for our people.”

An elder of the group, Inangaro Vakaafi, said Tonga’s call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty was another step towards the future Pacific islanders deserve.

“The Pacific is displaying the leadership and political will that we need to see emerging across the globe,” Vakaafi said.

“There is so much room for innovation and equity in the energy transition, but we must phase out the climate-destroying fossil fuels that got us into this mess in the first place. If island nations like ours can take the first step, what is stopping the rest of the world?”

The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty is supported by World Health Organisation, the European Parliament, as well as over 100 nobel laureates and 3,000 scientists and academics.