Amata urges Pacific leaders to confront China on climate change


Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen with Pacific leaders at Pacific Island Conference of Leaders. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

HONOLULU, Hawaii—Speaking at the East-West Center, U.S. American Samoa Congresswoman Aumua Amata Coleman Radewagen urged Pacific leaders to insist that the People’s Republic of China meet international standards on reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are threatening the very existence of some Pacific Island countries.
“While China says the right things it doesn’t do the right things,” said the four-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives, who went on to note that “China is heavily reliant on coal power and the country is currently running 1,058 coal plants—more than half the world’s capacity.”

Amata, who is co-chairman of the Congressional Pacific Islands Caucus, also suggested the leaders “use your international leverage and prestige to tell China not to support Russia in any way in its unjust war in Ukraine,” concluding “climate change standards and Ukraine War support are the two areas at a minimum that China must address with the Pacific before you even begin to talk with them about increasing their involvement in our islands.  We owe it to the people we lead.”

Amata is in Honolulu to participate in the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders (PICL), a three-day gathering usually held once every three years to bring together heads of government of Pacific Islands Forum countries, French, American and New Zealand territories and the state of Hawaii.  This is the first meeting of this conference, which is administratively supported by a secretariat housed at the East-West Center, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Forum Island country leaders will go on from Honolulu to New York to address the U.N. General Assembly then to Washington for a summit hosted by President Biden Sept. 28-29.

Amata’s father, the late American Samoa Gov. Peter Tali Coleman, was one of the driving forces in its creation and a founding member of the standing committee of PICL, which held its first conference in 1980 and provided a forum for territorial heads of government to share views with independent country leaders on issues common to all of them without regard to political status.  Amata recalled seeing various heads of government gathering at Government House in Pago Pago on the eve of the 1982 South Pacific Conference for an informal evening of relaxation. “I realized that although they carried different titles like king, president, prime minister, premier and governor, these were titles imported from the Western World.  In that room, they were peers and friends who carried the same title in all our Pacific cultures: leader of the people.”

Amata said she hoped the PIF leaders, armed with the views of leaders from the entire region, will be better able to convey to President Biden “whole-of-region” views on Pacific issues and hopes for American involvement. “For my part, I hope to persuade the next Congress to fund a state-of-the-art regional medical center in Pago Pago that can serve all of the surrounding Pacific Island groups, reducing the need for costly medical referrals to Auckland, Honolulu, Sydney and Brisbane.” Amata will gain seniority again come January. “I have always worked on a bipartisan basis, so I hope to be in a position to help our region in the next Congress,” noting that the Congressional Pacific Islands Caucus, formed under the leadership of Rep. Ed Case (D-HI), operates on a bi-partisan, consensus basis. “I appreciate Congressman Case for offering me a co-chairmanship.”

Chaired by Federated States of Micronesia President David Panuelo, PICL concludes Wednesday. The Congresswoman credits President Panuelo’s letter of caution to his Forum colleagues with halting PRC efforts to forge a regional security treaty. (PR)

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