Building Climate Resilient Green Blue Pacific Economies
Usman W. Chohan has an MBA from Desautels (2014) in Strategy and Leadership. He was an attendee the 3rd Pacific Climate Change Convention of the Pacific Island Development Forum (PIDF); held in Suva, Fiji in September, 2015. He has previously served at the World Bank Institute and the National Bank of Canada.
“It is time – high time – for the world to embrace deep and binding cuts in carbon emissions to arrest the current level of global warming. And we can now go to the world with one voice – the voice of those who have made the least contribution to the crisis we now face, but for whom it is having the biggest impact.”
– V. Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji, announcing the Suva Declaration
The economies of the South Pacific are inextricably bound to their marine biosystems, which is why building climate resilience poses a uniquely pressing problem for smaller island nations, particularly in light of the rampant and dramatic alterations afflicting global marine ecologies. By virtue of their economic covariance with marine sustainability, the pacific island republics, led by Fiji, have worked towards establishing the Pacific Island Development Forum (PIDF) to serve as a platform for the expression of regional viewpoints, and to generate meaningful solutions to the salient issues concerning marine diversity.
Described as the “most inclusive and highest participatory South-South platform for action on the Green Economy”,  PIDF reflects a regional consensus that asserts, broadly speaking, that building climate resilient economies that nurture sustainable marine ecosystems is crucial to long-term regional prosperity. The 3rd Pacific Climate Change Convention of the PIDF, held in Suva, Fiji, has placed particular importance on creative solutions and regional collaboration, while drawing upon recent breakthroughs such as the 2012 seminal document produced by the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Green Economy in a Blue World . The underlying thesis of that document was that the ‘Blue economy’, ocean-dependent and marine-based, required a ‘green’ element of sustainable development.
In the ensuing three years since the release of the UN report, the notion of a ‘green-blue economy’ has been strongly championed by ecologically conscious initiatives around the world, including the PIDF. Important parameters in this green-blue movement have included inter alia:
1) Renewable technologies such as wind, water and tidal; which together represent less than 2% of global renewable energy production;
2) A reduction in the contamination of oceans from industrial and agricultural residue;
3) A stricter use of nutrient spill that can impact ocean systems;
4) Strengthening regional fisheries agencies, community and trade fishing associations;
5) Developing sustainable aquaculture methods;
6) Encouraging small-footprint coastal tourism; and
7) A more disciplined extraction of deep-sea minerals and other extractive resources.
The combination of these factors, among others, highlights the increasing awareness of stakeholder nations in shaping a more sustainable and responsible regional agenda.
Conference Proceedings and the Suva Declaration
Organized by the Fijian government and held at the Grand Pacific Hotel, the PIDF summit lasted several days and brought representatives from government, civil society, as well the private sector. It was subcategorized by areas of interest, ranging from discussions on the acidification of oceans, to discussions on sustainable tourism, to wider sustainability debates.
Delegates from more than 30 pacific and non-pacific countries attended. Non-pacific countries present included Pakistan, also a victim of climate change and yet a very ecologically benign country when adjusting for its size, constituting 3% of the entire global population (>190 million people) but hardly 1.8% of global emissions.
A series of deliberations took place which allowed the drafting of the Suva Declaration, a unanimously agreed upon document that jointly voiced the concerns of PIDF countries. This declaration is important because it represents a collective viewpoint that will inform discussions at future forums. including the COP 21 in Paris (2015) and its Sustainable Innovation Forum.
Hailed as a milestone in Pacific Island history, the Suva declaration represents a unified and ‘frank’ evaluation of the dire climatic situation that should emerge if the major polluters of the earth turn a blind eye to the risks faced by the smaller nations. “To let us sink beneath the waves is totally immoral. The world must not betray us,” Prime Minister Bainimarama said at the conclusion of the conference.
As the summit drew to a close, Pacific Island nations stood together with the Suva Declaration in hand, expressing a common sense of purpose and desire to promote sustainability that would strengthen their future by ‘greening’ their blue economies.
The 3rd Pacific Development Convention in Suva, Fiji, represents a locally-driven consensus among the smaller Pacific nations to take charge of their ecological destiny. It signifies their effort to collaborate on ideas and projects that preserve their economic integrity while putting them on greener, more sustainable footing. As the climate change debate goes in circles in noncommittal pollutant large countries, but devastates smaller nations in the meantime; forums such as the PIDF at least begin to mark the way forward for a responsible engagement with the oceans.
The Suva Declaration will be a centerpiece of the joint Pacific Islands position in upcoming sustainability summits including the COP 21 in Paris and its Sustainable Innovation Forum.
 The Pacific Island Development Forum. What is PIDF?. URL: <http://pacificidf.org/what-is-pidf/>
 The United Nations Environment Programme. (2012). Green Economy in a Blue World. Synthesis Report. UN Publications. URL: <http://www.unep.org/pdf/green_economy_blue.pdf>
Read more about PIDF Leaders Summit here.