Pacific Islands at risk of being swallowed by rising seas accused Washington of “abandoning” vulnerable nations and expressed dismay Friday after Donald Trump pulled the US out of the Paris climate deal.
Leaders of a cluster of small remote island states in the Pacific, which are at the forefront of the battle against climate change and already suffering the effects of unpredictable weather, expressed deep disappointment at the controversial move.
Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga said the Americans were turning their backs on his country in its time of need, despite their alliance during World War II.
“We provided our islands as a launching pad for them to achieve their objectives and now we are facing the biggest war of our time, they are abandoning us,” he told the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation during a visit to the neighbouring island.
“It’s really an act of abandoning small island countries like Tuvalu.”
Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, who will serve as president of upcoming UN climate talks in Germany later this year, labelled the US move “deeply disappointing” but he said the battle to contain the threats to the environment would continue.
“While the loss of America’s leadership is unfortunate, this is a struggle that is far from over,” he said.
Bainimarama’s Pacific island nation has already felt the impact of climate change through wild storms such as last year’s Cyclone Winston, which killed 44 people and wiped out a third of the economy.
– ‘We must not give up hope’ –
There was also defiance from the Marshall Islands, a Pacific archipelago highly exposed to climate-induced sea level rise and the first country to ratify the global pact.
President Hilda Heine expressed disappointment and confusion at the US decision and said it would have grave implications.
“We must not give up hope. Our children and their children deserve not only to survive, they deserve to thrive,” she told Radio New Zealand.
The COP 23 talks will be held in Bonn from November 6-17, with Germany inviting Fiji’s PM to act as president to give a voice to those on the frontline of climate change.
Bainimarama said the rest of the world remained committed to the Paris deal, known as COP 21, struck in 2015 and signed by more than 190 countries.
“As incoming COP president, I reaffirm that I will do everything possible to continue to forge a grand coalition that will accelerate the momentum that has continued since the Paris Agreement,” he said.
He predicted Washington would eventually reverse its decision.
“I am also convinced that the United States government will eventually rejoin our struggle because the scientific evidence of man-made climate change is well understood,” he said.
“The issue is settled, and the impacts are obvious, and humankind ignores these facts at its peril.”
Meanwhile, New Zealand’s Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett said many of the claims made by US President Donald Trump were simply incorrect.
“So much of what he said is wrong. It’s not going to cost America to be in it disproportionately to others,” she told RNZ.
“Climate change and what we need to do there can create jobs, not take them away.”
Australia’s foreign and environment ministers said Canberra was disappointed with the US withdrawal and reaffirmed the nation’s “strong commitment” to the Paris Agreement.