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Pacific under-represented at UN climate conference

The region which is one of the most impacted by future global climate change policy will not have a loud voice shaping its direction at arguably their most important round-table discussion ever.

Days out from the UN Climate Change Conference, only one in three Pacific Island governments will be represented.

The lack of key government figures flying into Glasgow has led to concerns that sovereign Pacific islands will not be able to respond or provide feedback to proposals from the industrialised world.

Some 14 nations in the Pacific will have a leader present on the world stage.

But the name cards of Marshall Islands and Cook Islands will be missing on the table’s world stage, while Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tonga and Samoa have been attempting to find delegates from either their embassies, consulates or high commissions across Europe to attend on the government’s behalf.

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Protocols urge head of states to lead delegations at the conference, even though it appeared that Australian prime minister Scott Morrison had to be cajoled to make the trip recently.

Vanuatu is determined to have someone from the volcanic archipelago at the conference to convey the country’s key environmental points after believing being a part of a voting bloc can influence negotiations.

The Alliance of Small Island States have 39 members throughout the world’s oceans and have been the loudest cheerleaders for climate change policy that will positively affect their communities.

Invitations to speak on behalf of many sinking countries have been declined for multiple reasons out of their control.

That has extended to Pacific civil society delegates that will fall by around two thirds from 70 to 80 at past conference of the parties’ meetings to little more than 20 to 30 people.

Covid-19 travel restrictions and subsequent mandatory quarantine make the trip near impossible.

Marshall Islands alone demand returning travellers spend four weeks in isolation on return to its 29 islands and atolls to maintain – like most Pacific Islands – the very low positive case numbers.

Other nations prepared to fly to the other side of the world face up to four days of travelling after straight forward routes are not available.

Travel via Australia or New Zealand are off the itinerary over stringent quarantine requirements on arrival to the Pacific’s largest countries.

But Fiji prime minister Frank Bainimarama is the one Pacific leader that will attend after acting as a mouthpiece for the region on climate action while encouraging his counterparts to make their presence felt to influence others.

One of the small nations in the world is heeding the stance from the second largest in the Pacific.

Palau has just 18,000 people but this year is sending its largest delegation of 25 government figures, including president Surangel Whipps, to COP-26.

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