East Asia and the Pacific: Remarks at the 27th PIF Post-Forum Dialogue

Good morning. It’s an honor to join so many leaders, distinguished delegates, and friends of the Pacific, committed to issues that are dear to President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and myself.
Thank you, Prime Minister O’Neill, for you and your government’s hospitality in hosting this year’s forum. I’d also like to extend my appreciation to Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat; your efforts have paved the way for progress on critical issues.
The friendship between the United States and the Pacific Islands Nations is enduring. President Obama and Secretary Kerry are grateful for the partnership we enjoy with the Pacific Island Nations in addressing many top priorities. We are committed to working together to combat climate change; boost disaster resilience; protect our common ocean; and promote health, gender, equity and human rights for all.
Last year we committed over $350 million for our engagement with the 14 Forum Island Countries. And we have purposefully designed these programs based on the principles of close consultation with global leaders and communities, building local capacity, and making development sustainable. With robust resources and shared values, our cooperation will continue to expand and address the challenges ahead.
Our first set of challenges is the threats posed by climate change. The science is irrefutable that warmer oceans are leading to increased coral bleaching, disease outbreaks, and changes in the distribution of important fisheries that we depend on. With this year’s El Niňo, we are observing one of the most active cyclone seasons ever recorded in the Pacific. And we are particularly concerned for our friends in the atoll nations of Kiribati, Tuvalu, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, where the rising sea levels threaten your very survival.
Under President Obama’s leadership, the United States is systematically taking every opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from all sources. We are doubling fuel efficiency of cars and light trucks. We have finalized tough regulations for power plants, nearly tripled wind and solar energy plants since 2008, and have taken strong action that methane, HFCs, and land use emissions, among many others. Our emissions continue to fall even as our economy grows, and we are well on our way to meeting our target under the UNFCCC of reducing emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Earlier this year, we announced a target that would double the pace of emissions reductions between 2020 and 2025, a trajectory consistent with achieving over 80 percent reductions from 2005 by 2050.
The United States welcomes the focus on climate change at the PIF and other regional meetings. We stand with you in seeking a robust agreement in Paris that is ambitious, inclusive, and durable – one in which all countries–especially major economies– take strong action to reduce emissions. We want an agreement that prioritizes support for countries and communities most in need, and an agreement that brings parties back to the table every five years to ratchet up our efforts to reduce emissions. We will work closely with our Pacific Partners to make Paris a major milestone in our common goal of stopping dangerous climate change.
As we make progress on the domestic and global levels, we are continuing our work directly here in the Pacific. In recent years, we have committed over $60 million in bilateral assistance to address resilience challenges across the Pacific, including for water research in Kiribati, food security in Samoa, and for ecosystem adaptation in the Solomon Islands.
And today, I am pleased to announce that we will double our investment in USAID’s Adapt Asia Pacific Program, which increases capacity to secure international funding, including from the Green Climate Fund. This program has already helped Pacific governments access nearly $70 million for new adaptation projects.
In order to build capacity, I am also pleased to announce that USAID will provide nearly $1.5 million dollars this year in new funding this year to expand its existing disaster risk reduction program in Papua New Guinea. This program is already working with Prime Minister O’Neill’s government to respond to the effects of El Niňo.
The United States has made conservation and the sustainable use of our oceans a top priority. Illustrative of this was President Obama’s six-fold expansion of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument, making it the largest marine protected area in the world that is completely off limit to commercial activities. Today I am delighted to announce that we are collaborating with New Caledonia, the Cook Islands, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature to conserve two additional marine protected areas. We continue our work with Kiribati on research and cooperation in the expanded Phoenix Islands Protected Area.
It is challenging to protect our exclusive economic zones from illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, but it is also vitally important to ensure a long-term sustainability of the economic resources in our mutual Pacific. That is why the United States Coast Guard, through its ship-rider agreements, supports surveillance efforts.
Additionally, over the past year, the United States has been working closely with Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia on maritime surveillance, including through successful pilot surveillance projects in Palau and FSM waters, and participation in the development of Maritime Domain Awareness strategies. We are also working to increase the costs to rule-breakers to make it more difficult for illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishers to sell their catch. One important step we can all take is to ratify and implement the Port State Measures Agreement.
Another shared area of concern is the plight of women in the Pacific. No country can effectively develop without empowering its full population. We salute the PIF’s efforts to promote human rights, advance gender equality, and combat gender-based violence, including by issuing the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration in 2012. That is why the United States in investing over $1.5 million to empower women economically, and reduce gender-based violence in Papua New Guinea. We also support the focus the PIF has placed this year on cervical cancer, the second most common cancer in women worldwide, and a very preventable one.
The United States supports efforts to advance the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people globally, and we were proud last month to support the regional launch of the UN’s Free and Equal Campaign in Fiji. We look forward to working with stakeholders as we increase our engagement in the region to ensure that all people can live freely and without discrimination.
We will continue this work across the region, around the world, and at the United Nations. We were honored to co-sponsor the resolution adopted just today in New York promoting cooperation between the UN and the PIF, and we will continue to work with you to ensure the needs of the Pacific and other Small Islands Developing States are prioritized.
The Pacific Island nations have long held a special relationship with the United States, and it is our great privilege to be your trusted partner. This year we mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, when our relationship deepened. Today, we remember the September 11th attacks on the United States, and give thanks to all those that have served and sacrificed to promote international peace and security.
Thank you all, again, for the warm hospitality, and the opportunity to work together to face the defining challenges of our time.
Source: technology

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