Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Q and A@COP15: Changing the climate at COP15 with AOSIS Coordinator Pasha Carruthers

Lisa Williams-Lahari, Freelance Journalist, Climate Pacific Media
Copenhagen, 15 December - It's been almost 15 years now since Cook Islander Pasha Carruthers first joined the PICCAP (Pacific Islands Climate Change Adaptation Project) team for the Cook Islands. Now she is a COP veteran, leading critical negotiations into the small hours at this and previous COP meetings. Her current hats include advising not just the Pacific but all the small island states of the world within the AOSIS grouping, on adaptation. Climate Pacific media's Lisa Williams-Lahari caught up with Carruthers as she was heading between meetings at COP15's crunch time. Like other negotiators at COP15 surviving on long days and even longer nights, Carruthers is wrangling through the maze of text which the AOSIS is still hoping will form the basis for a legal commitment from more than 100 world leaders, this Friday.

LWL: It's getting to crunch time. What are the issues now as we head towards Friday?
PC: The issues now are funding of course, and also institutional arrangements. What we're looking at under the convention. We have to have the support. We don't want to be going all over the world looking for help on these huge issues of adapation. How do we deal with food security? How do we deal with water resources? How do we deal with human health? Climate change is impacting on all these areas -- and what are we going to do about it? We might have some knowledge -- in fact we do-- like the Cook Islands. But we also need to get technical support from the international level and the regional level but we don't want to be having to look for it. So the idea is to have the coordination for this under the convention. And also for the funding -- we dont want to go all over the show looking for the funding, having to have different rules. We simply in the Cook Islands don't have enough people to develop the proposals. I think the ideas that developed countries have and developing countries, are very different in terms of what's needed to make adaptation happen on the groun. Developed countries want it to be all about policies and things like that but developing countries say no it's time for action, for us to feel able and ok to cope with these impacts on the ground.

LWL: How hard does it make your job then of getting all the red lines and brackets out of the text you want to put through?

PC: It's very hard, especially because until now we haven't actually been focussing on the text. Everybody's just been stating our own postiions and now we have to go forward on the actual text and make sure that the small islands states concerns are captured in that.

LWL:There was some mention that you also have to watch out on the timing of these negotiations and hours at which developed countries with their bigger delegations are waiting to change text-- how critical is that?

PC: Oh, you can't leave the room! As simple as that. You have to be in to make sure your text (stays). The problem is when you're tired you make mistakes, and sometimes you let things go that you shouldn't and you don't realise (laughs) there's tricks happening out there. But I think most countries want something on adaptation. In that respect, it might be easier as an issue, but of course they don't want to pay for it. Basically it seems like developed countries want developing countries to take adaptation in their own countries and pay for it themselves, and then come and share their information at this level but no, that's not what we're looking for. We're looking for action on the ground.

LWL: Are you confident you will get it? It seems there's a bit of a morale slump in the AOSIS camp.
PC: I think as far as the big picture -- because the amount of adaptation we have to do depends on the mitigation that's undertaken, so if there's ambitious mitigation we won't have to adapt to as many impacts, as many physical changes in the environment. But if the mitigation language is lower we have to do a whole lot more and it'll cost developed countries a whole lot more. I think all countries have to realise that unless we do something it will be a much higher cost. Never mind the fact that we're fighting for our people, our culture and our land.

LWL: There's so many (issues) in that basket of issues -- adaptation is just one of them. Is it the most important one?
PC: I think that's part of it, because of the lack of ambition being shown  In the old days you didn't fight for adaptation so much because you were fighting more for mitigation so you wouldn't have to adapt. But now, we have to adapt, no matter what. But it's how much we have to adapt. In some ways it's just as important and unfortunately the less mitigation there is, the more important it will become.

LWL: And it's all about how much its going to cost.

PC: Of course.

LWL: Will 10billion (announced earlier this week by EU) be enough?

PC: No, 10billion will not be enough. I mean World Bank and institutions like that which are donor run are estimating we need 86 to 160billion, and UNDP are saying similar. That's per year until 2015 so 10billion is not enough, and especially the way they're talking about 10billion for all aspects of climate change, including mitigation, technology building, not just adaptation on the ground. So definitely it's not enough.--ENDS

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