Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged 55 billion yen ($453 million) in aid to Pacific island nations on Saturday to help them combat the adverse effects of climate change and natural disasters. The announcement was made during a gathering of leaders from 14 Pacific island nations in Iwaki in northern Japan.
“In order for us to face up to the fury of nature and also recover even better from disasters, we must bring to each other our wisdom and experiences while maintaining connections,” Abe reportedly said in a speech on the final day of the seventh Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM). “As a pledge of the Japanese government, we will provide no less than 55 billion yen ($453 million) to you in the upcoming three years ... in order to foster resilient capabilities that will not be defeated by climate change or disasters.”
The financial aid will be used to fund the fight against environmental disasters and to increase access to clean water and renewable energy, according to media reports.
Since 1870, global sea levels have risen by eight inches. This has already affected many low-lying islands in the Pacific, including Fiji, the Marshall Islands and the Solomon Islands. Moreover, the rise in sea levels is expected to accelerate in the coming decades as warming temperatures melt mountain glaciers and ice caps, causing portions of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to melt and flow into the ocean.
An earlier report by the United Nations Environment Programme found that a total of 53 island nations -- with a combined population of over 62 million people -- are especially vulnerable to sea level rise.
In his speech, Abe reportedly reaffirmed his commitment to make the Pacific Ocean “a place that brings a promising future to each and every person living there.”
The two-day meeting, held every three years, comes at a time when Japan is attempting to boost its presence in the Pacific, in order to offset growing Chinese economic and political influence in the region.