Pacific leaders have declared their solidarity with small island nations in calling for global powers to increase climate funding.

The Alliance of Small Island States, which has represented the interests of 39 small nations on the world stage since 1990, ratified its first leaders’ declaration since 2014 on Wednesday.

At the virtual summit, which took place alongside the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the Alliance’s 39-member nations spoke of the overwhelming effects of the climate crisis and their challenges in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The leaders’ declaration comes as an act of solidarity ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference in November, where pivotal climate negotiations will take place.

“For the Pacific (small island developing states), climate change is our top priority. We have all the evidence we need … Our survival is dependent on what we achieve on the ground,” said Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. “In the same breath, the big polluters and emitters need to demonstrate true leadership and understanding of the desperate situation faced by (small island developing states) and the global community.”

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama speaks at the Alliance of Small Island States Summit. YouTube/AOSIS Media

The need for financial assistance from the international community was an important issue for Pacific island leaders during the summit, which was noted in the declaration, as the small nations did not have adequate access to funding for lessening and adjusting to climate change. And though U.S President Joe Biden announced he would seek to double his climate financing to developing nations to $11.4 billion by 2024, more was needed.

Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji, spoke of the difference between the small island nations and the global powers, contrasting differing access to financing recovery from climate change, calling it an “apartheid to access to climate finance.”

“We need breakthrough multilateralism that is finally fair, with small island developing states at the core,” said Bainimarama. “We cannot stay on the margins as decisions are made that determine whether we prosper or struggle in the future.”

Another key call in the declaration was that the Group of 20 nations take responsibility for their fossil fuel industry subsidies, the major contributor to greenhouse has emissions globally, on which at least $1.6 trillion had been spent since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015.

The subsidies illustrated “an unfair competitive advantage provided to the fossil fuel industry that creates artificial barriers to the growth of the renewable energy industry, and the locking in of carbon-intensive infrastructure,” according to the declaration. The declaration urged major emitters to phase out all subsidies by 2023.

Secretary of the Department of the Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Ivan Pomaleu said those powers’ actions on climate change should be “commensurate to their levels of emissions.”

“We need to move into actions rather than continue to talk,” said Pomaleu.

Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, and the Alliance chair, said: “As a voice for the most vulnerable countries, we note that the challenges are great yet there are solutions, and the momentum is here and now.”

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