Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged $453 mn in aid to Pacific island nations to help them combat climate change and natural disasters, on Saturday. Abe made the pledge at Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM), a two-day gathering of leaders of 14 Pacific island nations in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture which began on Friday.
"As a pledge of the Japanese government, we will provide no less than 55 bn Yen ($453 mn) to you in the upcoming three years...in order to foster resilient capabilities that will not be defeated by climate change or disasters," Abe said in the meeting.
The seventh round of PALM came as host Japan attempts to boost its profile in the Pacific, just when Chinese economic and political influence is growing in the region. Senior officials from regional powers including Australia, New Zealand, as well as the United States attended the triennial meet.
Pacific island leaders have long complained about rising sea levels eroding their coastlines and of the increasing severity and frequency of extreme climate phenomena, such as super-typhoons, likely caused by global warming. They have pushed developed nations, responsible for most of the emissions associated with global warming, to extend help to cope with damage brought by harsh climate patterns.
In the previous PALM round in 2012, Japan pledged up to $500 mn over a period of three years to the members, focused on damage mitigation efforts. Japan decided to host the 2015 conference in Iwaki in southern Fukushima, to highlight the devastation caused by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami in 2011, and the region's subsequent reconstruction. The city is far enough from the crippled Fukushima nuclear reactors, to prevent exposure of the guests to harmful radiation, but it still serves as a grim reminder of the world's worst atomic accident in a generation.
Recently, in March, a severe tropical cyclone-Pam killed 11 people in Vanuatu, which sustained winds of more than 250kmph, affecting about 166,600 inhabitants. Ahead of the conference, Japan recognized a tiny island nation-Niue as a sovereign state. The nation is perched some 2,400km northeast of New Zealand, with 1,611 inhabitants.