by Christian Edwards
MAJURO, Marshall Islands, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- Henry Puna, the prime minister (PM) of the Cook Islands, made an impassioned plea for united global action against climate change on the sidelines of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) launched here on Tuesday.
Speaking to Xinhua during an exclusive interview, Puna said the time for empty debate had passed.
"It is no longer an issue to just talk about," he told Xinhua. "It's an issue that requires action now."
In the wake of a marathon Smaller Island States meeting, the Cook Islands leader said despite the frustration and disappointment, there was still hope and encouragement for vulnerable pacific states due to the positive involvement of some larger global players.
He praised China for its forward-looking approach to climate change in the Pacific.
"China, for example, is one that is coming out and taking a lead and one that is giving us a lot of comfort," he said.
The tension surrounding the critical meeting in Majuro has been palpable, with leaders of many pacific island states speaking with passion - and sometimes despair - over the effects of rising sea levels on the pacific island community.
"The sad truth is that countries here had nothing to do with bringing about climate change and yet they are the ones being made to pay for the rest of the world, and that is the reason for the disappointment and the despondency."
"The fact is that for most of us it is now simply a matter of life and death so you can understand the passion driven by desperation," he added.
The 44th PIF is being held in the Marshall Islands, one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change in the world.