The future of the Pacific is in your hands

Pacific members of COP21 wrapped up their country statements at the climate change negotiations in Paris today by re-stating their demands for a good agreement, one that is ambitious and legally binding.

Reaffirmation of the Pacific’s position was made by Dame Meg Taylor, the Secretary General of the Fiji-based Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, and also the Pacific Ocean Commissioner.

A good agreement Dame Taylor says would be one that keeps temperature rise at well below 1.5 degrees Celsius, features a stand-alone lost and damage mechanism, and offers new and scaled up financing.

“Never before has it been so important to amplify the Pacific voice regarding the adverse challenges of climate change that we collectively face,” said Dame Taylor. “This alarm and call is clearly identified in the Pacific Island Forum Leaders declaration on climate change action. The decisions made here today will impact on our region tomorrow. Action is required now.

“As reiterated by the chair of the Pacific Islands Forum and other Pacific leaders who had spoken here last week, we must have an ambitious and legally binding agreement that will address issues that are necessary for their survival. We need a temperature goal with a ceiling well below 1.5 degrees Celsius. We need loss and damage as a critically stand-alone element and we need a simplified and scaled up access to climate change finance.”

For her role as the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, Dame Taylor told COP21 that the ocean is the heart of the Pacific. It is on the ocean that Pacific islanders rely for food, livelihood, culture, recreation and transport.

“Our economies are largely based on the ocean and its resources. The ocean and the climate are inextricably linked, by changing the climate, you will irrevocably change the ocean and change our lives.”

Climate Change she said compounds existing challenges in ensuring sustainable development as spelt out in the Samoa Pathway of the UN SIDS Conference last year. Inaction she said will undermine the Pacific’s development aspirations and could result in the loss of its unique and diverse cultures and the non-realisation of sustainable development goals.

“Our leaders see a secure future for Pacific island people based on the sustainable development, management and conservation of our ocean and lands. We look to the future and hope our children know what it means to be a Pacific islander in a region rich with diversity.

“But this future is at extreme risk from climate change unless we take action now. I urge you to take action. Help our people, our region by concluding negotiations at this COP and by adopting an agreement that is binding, ambitious and durable. Pacific lives, Pacific cultures, Pacific futures are in your hands.”

Speaking a few minutes before her, Secretary General of the 79-member countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific, Patrick Ignatius Gomes said with the support of the European Union, the ACP has set aside 475 million Euros (US$517 million) from its Economic Development Fund (EDF) eleven allocation for work on climate change, resilience building and the environment.

Such funding would help address poverty and pursue sustainable development that are being threatened by the adverse impact of climate change.

“Members of the ACP are particularly vulnerable to the impacts and consequences of climate change,” said Secretary General Gomes. “They pose immediate and long term risks to poverty, and to the very survival of ACP member countries.

“We therefore seek a Paris Agreement that must be legally binding, inclusive, fair, ambitious, durable and dynamic. It must have a mechanism for a periodic review of every 5 years. It needs to have a robust, transparent and accountable system. It should ensure that temperature rise targets stay well below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Adequate, predictable, equitable, sustainable climate finance is particular important for the ACP group and indeed for a successful outcome of Paris.”

With the joint high level segment completed in which member countries as well as inter-governmental organisations and civil society groups were invited to give 3 minute long speeches, ministers of the 195 states that are members of COP have retired to their respective groups to try and hammer out a deal on a new global agreement on climate change.

COP21 President and French foreign minister Laurent Fabius has given a deadline of Thursday evening this week, where hopefully all parties should have ironed out their differences. Minister Fabius is hopeful the main plenary of COP21 would be able to have an agreement to endorse when it reconvenes on Friday.

Pacific island ministers are fighting tooth and nail to have their key demands included; that of having an ambitious and legally binding agreement that keeps temperature rise target at well below 1.5 degrees Celsius, a stand-alone loss and damage mechanism, and new, adequate, transparent and accessible climate financing     

Islands Business