Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Address climate change, heavyweights urge

Jose Manuel Barroso. Photo / Greg Bowker
Jose Manuel Barroso. Photo / Greg Bowker

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso swept into the Pacific summit in Auckland yesterday with the same message as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who swept out - address climate change.

He opened his purse to announce a $17 million Pacific fund for climate change-related projects.

The addition of international heavyweights to the forum is part of New Zealand's bid to lift the profile and muscle of the Pacific Islands Forum.

As well, a United States delegation of about 50, including Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides and Assistant Secretary of State for Asia and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell, arrived from Washington yesterday.

The United States is stepping up its engagement with the region, and Dr Campbell recently led an extensive tour of Pacific countries, including Kiribati.

The Americans will be part of the post-forum dialogue meeting tomorrow - and some of their Pacific territories, Guam, the Northern Marianas and American Samoa, are seeking observer status at the forum.

On a smaller scale, the Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malik has been working the diplomatic circuit on the fringes of the forum, with the Palestinian Authority promoting a "statehood" resolution at the United Nations. Israeli ambassador to New Zealand Shemi Tzur is also working the forum.

Prime Minister John Key said last night that having the weight of the European Union and President Barroso's contribution was "a real bonus".

Mr Barroso said the EU's solidarity with the Pacific was "growing and real".

After a meeting with Mr Key last night, Mr Barroso said: "We want to renew our engagement with this region and of course we see New Zealand as a very close friend, a like-minded partner".

They also discussed the global economy in which stability in Europe is a primary focus.

The EU is the second largest donor in the region; the commission budgeted to spend $1.2 billion in the five years to 2013.

Mr Barroso said the fund was not enough and the EU was working on a bigger strategic plan to link development funding and climate change.

Today Mr Barroso will receive an honorary doctorate at Auckland University, and leaders will go to Waiheke Island for their decision-making retreat.

- NZ Herald

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