Shangri-La Dialogue: Fiji says climate change, not conflict, is Asia’s biggest security threat
- Last September, Fiji passed a sweeping climate change act which declared a climate emergency while setting out the legal framework for the nation’s response
- The Pacific islands became a focus of regional tensions this year after China signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands in April
Fiji has been battered by a series of tropical cyclones in recent years, causing devastating flooding that has displaced thousands from their homes and hobbled the island’s economy.
“In our blue Pacific continent, machine guns, fighter jets, grey ships and green battalions are not our primary security concern,” Inia Seruiratu, Fiji’s Minister for Defence, said at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s top security meeting.
“The single greatest threat to our very existence is climate change. It threatens our very hopes and dreams of prosperity.”
“The single greatest threat to our very existence is … human-induced, devastating climate change. It threatens our very hopes and dreams of prosperity.
“Waves are crashing at our doorsteps, winds are battering our homes, we are being assaulted by this enemy from many angles.”
He said security was “broader than many of us have traditionally defined it” urging other countries to support Fiji’s efforts to combat climate change.
Beijing has said that it is not establishing a military base in the Solomon Islands and that its goal is to strengthen security cooperation with Pacific island nations.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi conducted a tour of the Pacific islands last month in the hope of securing a sweeping regional trade and security pact, but the island nations were unable to reach a consensus on a deal.
Seruiratu played down concerns about a battle for influence in the Pacific islands while highlighting his country’s willingness to work with a range of countries.
“In Fiji, we are not threatened by geopolitical competition,” he said in his speech.
“We have to adapt how we work and who we work with to achieve stability.”
Last September, Fiji passed a sweeping climate change act which declared a climate emergency while setting out the legal framework for the nation’s response.
Other low-lying Pacific island nations also face threats from climate change. These range from cyclones that are becoming more regular and powerful, to rising seas.
Ahead of last year’s key climate talks in Glasgow, Pacific states warned they were bearing the brunt of global warming and urged wealthy, industrialised nations to do more.
Additional reporting Agence France-Presse