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[Radio Australia] Britain looks at new ways of working with Pacific on climate change

Updated 22 April 2013, 22:04 AEST

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Britain’s conservative government has put a new priority on its climate change programs in the Pacific.

Britain looks at new ways of working with Pacific on climate change (Credit: ABC)  (Click to listen online)

The move follows Britain’s decision to join the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme – the region’s leading body on climate and environmental issues.

At a business meeting in Port Moresby last week British Minister of State Hugo Swire highlighted the rich biodiversity of the region.

Correspondent: Jemima Garrett

Speaker: Hugo Swire, Britain’s Minister of State for the Pacific C

SWIRE: We’re not many miles away from the Carteret Islands, which were forcibly evacuated and the population was relocated. Why, because it was sinking underwater. It would have disappeared and we are extremely concerned about the Pacific in terms of global warming and climate change and so forth and we want to work very closely, we’ve provided a lot of funding for that. I’ve started or hosted a meeting of Pacific Islands in Lancaster House a few weeks ago, and we had academics there and we had the Prime Minister’s representative for Climate Change and we’ve just created a new fund with the Germans, worth about 47 million pounds which we’re urging PNG to apply for some funding from that, reduce the reliance on fossil fuels and we’ve got huge expertise in the UK on renewable energy, green alternative energy, wind power, wave power, offshore, onshore and hydro and these are things that I think PNG are looking at too, so we’ve got opportunities. And we people should take the issue of climate change very, very seriously here in the Pacific and we think it’s our duty to play our role in that.

GARRETT: You mentioned the Pacific-UK dialogue on climate change at Lancaster House. Where will that go from here?

SWIRE: Well, I mean it’s raised a lot of issues and we will continue to argue those points and we will continue to evangelise around the area that they need to take this very, very seriously and to look at all sources of alternative energy and we would be working very closely on that.

I think it was a first meeting of its kind and it wasn’t a one off. It’s one we’re going to repeat and that will involve visits here. I think it’s something which will probably be discussed at the Pacific Islands Forum and yes, the UK stands very ready to play its part.

I mean it’s worth saying. Again, you talked about the UK withdrawing from the area. The European Union is a major donor in this area. We just launched a new report this morning here in Port Moresby and it’s worth remembering that the UK is a donor to any EU aid program. We give about 15 per cent of that anyway. So we are a major donor in the area.

GARRETT: In fact, the EU Pacific Island Partnership is focusing also on climate change. W hat difference is that making?

SWIRE: Well, I think shows we’re all talking the same language and thinking the same thing and the more of us that do that the better. This is a real, pressing, urgent situation we’re dealing with here and we have to deal with it, because otherwise there will be more forcible relocations of existing populations.

GARRETT: Global talks aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emission, of course, are going very slowly. What opportunities are there at their at the political level for Britain to work more closely with the Pacific Islands on their agenda to get some action happening?

SWIRE: Well, I’m hoping to persuade my colleague, the Climate Change Minister to come out here. I think a visit by him is long overdue here and as I say, this will be discussed at the Pacific Islands Forum, I have no doubt. We will continue to provide technical know how. We will continue to raise the issue and we will continue to provide funding. And I think that’s going to be the way forward.

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