Vanuatu minister calls for commission on fossil fuels

Vanuatu children in a recent protest against climate change Photo: RNZ Pacific/Hilaire Bule

Vanuatu children in a recent protest against climate change Photo: RNZ Pacific/Hilaire Bule

Vanuatu’s Minister of Climate Ralph Regenvanu has called for the establishment of a Global Commission on Fossil Fuels.

He has told the Dialogue On Pathways to Transition Away From Just Fossil Fuels being held in Port Vila that science and fact must drive the world forward, not money.

He said such a commission would produce an authoritative evidence base on the impacts of fossil fuels and would inform the phase out that’s needed.

Regenvanu said the fossil fuel industry must be held to account for “practically singlehandedly taking the world beyond the goal of staying below 1.5 degrees celsius”.

He said the use of fossil fuels is the main driver for the loss and damage experienced by Pacific Island nations.

The Vanuatu minister wants energy that is decentralised, available locally, clean, green, renewable and abundant.

Ralph Regenvanu, Vanuatu's Minister of Climate Change Adaptation

Ralph Regenvanu, Vanuatu’s Minister of Climate Change Adaptation

 Reganvanu said reaching this vision of clear energy independence, in a just and equitable way, will take require and support from many.

“From those who have profited from fossil fuels at our expense, from our partners who have a genuine interest in the wellbeing and sustainable development of Vanuatu, and from multilateral climate regimes.

“Finance, technology and capacity must be provided to the Pacific for our Just Transition, and done so in a way that does not undermine our economic stability, with grants – not loans – and that can be easily accessed at the scale that is required,” said Regenvanu.

Vanuatu has the highest disaster risk on the planet according to the World Risk Report 2021 – and the recent back-to-back cyclones only highlight the Pacific’s vulnerability to escalating climate risks.

Just days before the cyclones hit, Vanuatu secured a historic motion supported by 105 countries to ask the International Court of Justice to define what legal responsibility countries have for not acting on the climate crisis.

Lavetanalagi Seru of the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN) told the Dialogue the world can no longer simply blame disasters on nature.

“Every natural disaster is now a fossil-fuelled disaster, exacerbated further by the world’s unwillingness to break its addiction to fossil fuels.

“Pacific people and our economies are in a constant state of recovery stemming from a crisis that we have contributed to the least. Once again, Pacific leaders are exemplifying the leadership that is required, by coming together to discuss a just transition that supports Pacific Islanders and ensures that no one is left behind.

“We need world leaders to join hands with us in the Pacific and tackle the climate crisis at its source: by stopping coal, oil and gas expansion, planning a scale-down in production, and supporting a just transition to a low-carbon system that provides energy access and sustainable development for all.”

New Zealand priortises climate change support for Fiji

The New Zealand Government says it will prioritise support to Fiji to combat climate change and sustainability.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta is in Fiji to meet Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka.

New Zealand has allocated US$12.4 million to support Fiji’s delivery of its own climate change priorities.

Mahuta said New Zealand remains committed to doing its fair share in the global race to tackle climate change by assisting partner countries to protect lives, livelihoods and infrastructure.

The allocation of flexible climate finance for Fiji follows similar allocations to Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands.