Port Vila, capital of Vanuatu, is hosting this week the 2nd Ministerial Conference of the Pacific on Ways to a Global Just Transition away from Fossil Fuels.

The conclave, organised by the governments of Vanuatu and Tuvalu, is being attended by delegations from Fiji, Niue, the Solomon Islands, the Marshall Islands, Tonga and representatives of regional organisations such as the Pacific Islands Forum and the Pacific Community.

The meeting is being held in a place that has recently been devastated by two consecutive category 4 cyclones and was not suspended to show just how important it is for island populations to immediately, fairly and comprehensively address the consequences of climate change as a result of fossil fuel gas emissions.

“Scientific evidence shows that committed emissions from existing fossil fuel energy infrastructure jeopardise the 1.5°C target, and nearly half of existing fossil fuel production sites must be shut down sooner if global warming is to be limited to 1.5°C,” says a statement from the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN).

“This means there is no scope for any further expansion of coal, oil and gas production. To date, current international climate change frameworks have not limited fossil fuel extraction at a rate consistent with the global temperature goal, and a liveable future hang in the balance,” the text continues.

The dilemma facing the people of this region is how to make a just transition to renewable energy, bearing in mind that their share of responsibility for the phenomenon is inversely proportional to the suffering it causes them.

As Joseph Sikulu, 350.org’s Managing Director for the Pacific, points out: “At the heart of a just transition is that no one is left behind, especially those who have contributed the least to the climate crisis. That means ensuring that our communities have access to alternative energy in the event of climate catastrophe and that governments in the Pacific have the resources to implement transition plans at the national level. A transition without this is neither just nor equitable, and to make the energy transition without providing space for the Pacific to lead and thrive would be to replace one bad system with another. The global shift away from fossil fuels must not replicate the extraction, exclusion and inequality of the fossil fuel industry.

The Ministerial dialogue will conclude on the 17th and the final Declaration is expected to include key initiatives and proposals linked to a just transition, such as the Fossil Fuels Non-Proliferation Treaty, the strengthening of the Beyond Oil and Gas Partnership and the Climate Initiative of the International Court of Justice.

The common sentiment is that hopefully the conclusions will serve as a basis for concerted and forceful action, beyond words and documents.