Pacific island leaders urge action on climate change, proclaim leadership

Leaders of Pacific island countries declared Thursday for climate leadership, calling for urgent action on climate change and declaring themselves leaders on the issue.

The declaration was issued by member countries of the annual Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting, which this year focuses on climate change.

"Recognizing our unique vulnerability to climate change, the predicted catastrophic impacts on the security and livelihoods of our people, and the significant benefits that come with our transition to renewable, clean and sustainable energy sources, we, the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum, confirm our climate leadership in the form of the commitments listed at the end of this declaration," according to the "Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership."

"It is our aim to provide the leadership to the world on climate change. It's only right that we do that because we are the most vulnerable even if we don't contribute to it," said Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak, who chairs this year's forum.

"As chair of the Pacific Islands Forum for the next 12 months, my absolute priority will be to fight for a safe climate future for my people, the Pacific region, and indeed the entire world," Loeak said.

The Pacific leaders expressed concern that "the world entered a new danger zone," citing that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere near the summit of Mauna Loa in Hawaii on May 9 exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time since measurement began.

"Unless we quickly change course, global average temperatures are projected to rise by 4 C or more above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, resulting in unprecedented human and environmental impacts," according to the declaration.

"There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that escalating greenhouse gas emissions continue to cause the sharp rise in average global temperatures over the past century, the alarming acidification of our oceans, the rapid loss of polar sea ice, sea-level rise, and the striking incidence of more frequent and extreme weather events all over the world," it added.

The declaration calls on the 13 member countries "to contribute to the urgent reduction and phase down of greenhouse gas pollution."

Loeak is set to encourage the forum's 13 partner countries -- including the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, and Britain -- to sign the declaration during the post-forum dialogue Friday.

Loeak will also present the declaration to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon during the General Assembly later this month "as a contribution to his efforts to catalyze ambitious climate action and mobilize political will for a universal, ambitious and legally binding climate change agreement by 2015."

Member countries of the forum are Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Fiji is suspended.