Saturday, 11 December 2010

Draft decisions adopted, pressure on Durban to produce a legally binding agreement

By Makereta Komai, Climate Pasifika Media in Cancun, Mexico

11 December, Cancun Mexico - Despite Bolivia's attempt to block the final decisions at the global climate change talks in Cancun, which concluded in the early hours of Saturday, the draft decisions from the two ad hoc working groups - long term co-operative action (LCA) and Kyoto Protocol (KP) were passed on majority voices.

The set of agreement, now dubbed the Cancun Agreement, will now be forwarded to Durban, in the hope that a legally binding agreement will be formalised in 2011.

Mexican President, Felipe Calderon made a brief appearance at the end of the COP plenary to congratulate all the 190 nations that sacrificed some of their national positions to reach a compromised agreement.

Earlier, there were extraordinary scenes at the close of the climate talks as the President of COP16, Patricia Espinosa appealed as a woman from the heart, for good sense to prevail in the last few hours of the negotiations before the closing plenary.

Ms Espinosa received continuous standing ovation from the packed plenary, indicating the willingness of Parties to bring to a conclusion the two weeks of negotiations, despite some of the polarised positions of key Parties during the 12 day climate talks.

When the informal session reconvened at 9.30pm Friday, there was overwhelming support from Parties to endorse the draft text submitted by the chair. But the Bolivarian Alliance for the People’s of America (ALBA) countries of Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela rejected the draft saying it did not reflect their positions and urged the chair to reconvene the ad hoc working groups to thrash out the issues of reducing global temperatures and the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

"In its current form, commitments to reducing global temperature will result in an average of 4 degree Celsius, a situation that will impose ‘genocide’ on the human race", said a Bolivian negotiator who made the intervention.

Grenada, speaking on behalf of AOSIS said while the text was not perfect because it does not reflect all the issues of Small Island Developing States, the group supported the draft document as a starting point for the building block for an eventual legally binding agreement that can be realised in Durban in 2011.  AOSIS
thanked Parties for making compromises to reach a positive outcome here in Cancun.

They congratulated the COP President, Ms Espinosa and her team for the transparent and flexible manner in which they’ve guided the negotiations.

A number of speakers, the United States, Australia, South Korea, Switzerland, Lesotho, the European Union and Maldives, all spoke in favour of the text, in the spirit of compromise.

Maldives said the ‘transparent and inclusive’ atmosphere that Mexico conducted the meetings has resulted in the ‘positive and enthusiastic end.’

Australia said the will to put together a compromised text was a ‘significant win to multilateralism.’

By 2am Saturday morning, after almost two hours, both the Long Term Co-operative Action (LCA) and Kyoto Protocol (KP) were adopted, despite interventions from Bolivia. The LCA text, drafted by chairperson, Zimbabwean, Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe was adopted despite an intervention from Bolivia. The chair directed Bolivia that its concerns were noted by the Secretariat.

The adoption of decisions of the two ad hoc working groups were received with loud cheers and applause from the hundreds of delegates and observers that followed the last hours of the negotiations.

United Nations climate chief, Christiana Figueres in a brief statement thanked Ms Sangarwe for her leadership in the LCA ad hoc working group.

“Your leadership has resulted in the crowning glory that we have now witnessed in the whole process. You have been calm in the face of everything – and you have ably led us to the path that we are celebrating tonight, said Figueres.

The conference, which ended early Saturday morning, has seen a lot of technicalities being discussed to take the pledges made at Copenhagen forward, and the Mexican government took a more decentralised process by forming smaller groups to discuss thorny issues and then tabling them in a plenary.

Sticky issues that tested the will of negotiators to compromise were transparency or the International Consultation and Analysis (ICA) and Measurement Reporting and Verification (MRV) , finance, technology transfer, reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) plus, and land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF). These were mostly the views of the minority, led by the United States.

There were also “strong and divergent positions” on the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol.

Discussion on the critical areas of ICA, anchoring the pledges made at Copenhagen and legal forms were led by the developed countries, with the U.S. making an issue of the technology transfer mechanism being operationalised.

It is critical to anchor the Copenhagen pledges within the framework of the Kyoto Protocol by developed countries and in long-term cooperative action under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for developing countries.

The commitment to the setting up of a green fund last year was also an issue of contention, with the U.S. again merely wanting a decision to establish the fund and carrying forward the modalities of funding. Developing countries, however, want a decision at Cancun on this crucial aspect.

NGOs pointed out that the phrase ‘new and additional' (for funding) has been removed from the text under discussion, and in return, timelines have been set for countries to give the money. The $30 billion fast-start finance announced at Copenhagen has been controversial with countries not really coming forward with
funding, and with much of it not being new or additional.

While no one expected a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol to be finalised at Cancun, at least a strong indication or political will to continue the protocol is crucial. It is important that the Copenhagen pledges be formalised under the UNFCCC.

Drama in the final session

By Stanley Simpson, Climate Pasifika Media

10 December, Cancun, Mexico - There was drama at the start of the final session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancun.

First – the secretariat had to repeatedly ask the delegates to take their seats before the session – which was already delayed by half an hour - could begin.

COP 16 President Patricia Espinosa then entered the plenary session at the Ceiba and received a 2 minute standing ovation from the packed crowd in attendance.

No sooner had she sat down when there was commotion at the entrance as some delegates and negotiators tried to enter the jam-packed session – but were stopped by security.

There were loud shouts of “help, help” and a lot of pushing and shoving.

Some delegates outside started banging against the walls.

The Madame President then directed the secretariat to allow the party delegates who were still outside to come in.

By then the Ceiba was filled to the brim – and the session was delayed again for another 20 minutes.

South American countries made the first three interventions.

With the first intervention from Bolivia who declared that they did not accept the draft text. Many in the crowd remarked “it is going to be a long night.”

Peru then spoke next and urged countries to adopt the draft text – to great applause.

It was clear that many were resigned to the compromise – were tired – and were wanting to go home.

Venezuela spoke straight after and raised their concern on the conduct of the security personnel saying they should keep a “cool head.”

On the draft text – they were not happy – and noted that there had been “tears and fury” but the “minutes are fundamental” to achieving a good climate change text.

Venenzuela called on delegates “not to give up” or be in “too much of a hurry” on the text.

South Korea made the first intervention in English – all the previous three had spoken in Spanish – and described the talks as a “roller coaster and full of steep slopes.”

They said they believed countries had risen to the challenges of climate change.

Grenada spoke on behalf of the AOSIS.

They congratulated the Madame President on her transparency and flexibility and welcomed the text although they outlined that it was “not perfect.”

They said they understood the balance needed to come up on the text and the compromises that had to be made.

AOSIS welcomed the proposals on adaptation and provisions for loss and damage.

“We have concerns – but our concerns will wait – given the late hour.”

The AOSIS intervention was well received.

As this report is being written outside the Ceiba – a lot of applause can be heard – signaling a better atmosphere to the talks a year ago in Copenhagen.

48 hours on a bus in Cancun

By a female Pacific reporter at the Climate change talks in Cancun

Final night in Cancun, great to see the back of the bus
If my Mother was here, she would tell me to count my blessings, but I’m finding it hard being in Cancun Mexico at the UN Climate Change meeting, spending most of my time in a bus.  (Sorry, Mother!)

Today is the last day and already I know my lasting memory will not be the long tiring negotiations, warm climate or great Mexican food.

My lasting memory will be the warm seats of the luxury buses that can recline and the small hard shuttle bus seats that cannot really accommodate the legs of a big Pacific woman.

I normally wouldn’t share such thoughts with you, but someone sent me a link called “A view from the bus” by a correspondent from The Economist, it gave me courage because if they can lament the busses, then so can this Pacific Islander.

Over the last two weeks I have perfected the art of being able to fall asleep upon sitting in the bus, while maintaining a strong grip on all your bags and materials!  If that was an Olympic sport, as it does require some skill, then I think I would win a gold medal for my country.  After all, I have had two weeks of intense training.

14 days ago there was an air of optimism as we waited to see how Mexico would unveil its skills in organising an immense conference, everything seemed great as the culture is colourful, its warm and people are super friendly.  But it wasn’t long before we had become frustrated conference delegates that spent every possible moment complaining about the bus.

Our accommodation is literally only 9 kms away from the conference venue, but that doesn’t mean much when you can only get to conference venues on official buses that always, no matter what, take the long way.  So for us a 10 minute ride has somehow turned into a 40 minute experience of angst and fidgeting as everybody is just itching to get through those doors.  There is often a mini stampede to get to the front of the bus aisle just before it pulls up.

Our daily route is so ridiculous we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when it first happened, and I felt a little sorry for the bus driver that had to face the onslaught of complaints as people got off the bus.  But hey, someone has to take it all – and he happened to be the closest.

Every day we want to go to the Moon Palace (Venue one) for the conference, but to get there you have to go to the Cancun Messe (Venue two) to make your way through security before boarding the next bus.

So the first bus is the nice luxury one in which we want to go to the Cancun Messe, but in order to get there, we literally pass by it, then touch the entrance of the Moon Palace and then go backwards to the Cancun Messe.  Once we offload like cattle and go through security we then board the small shuttle, the very one in which my knees push the seat in front of me, to go backwards to our hotel road and then past the Cancun Messe again to get to the Moon Palace.

I’m not lying.

Can you imagine what it’s like for those that stay further away?  My colleagues spend three hours on a bus every day that is one and a half hours to get here and then one and a half hours to go home.  When you do the math, multiply three by each day of negotiations it totals 48 hours of lost time that could be spent at the negotiating table, researching or sleeping.

Then, as the cherry on the icing of the Mexican cake, after 10pm the buses run on the hour and once those doors are shut that’s it.  You are not going anywhere until the next bus comes on the hour, which is a royal pain in the behind when you have to negotiate until 2am in the morning and want to get every bit of sleep you can, but you can’t as you have to wait.  Let me tell you that reading these words of this typical experience in Cancun may make it sound like a minor complaint, but you try having the doors shut in your face knowing that you will be there, on a pavement for another hour before your hour bus ride home at 2.00am in the morning.

It pretty much sucks.

Common sense tells me that when you are overseas negotiating under tense circumstances until odd hours on such a technical issue, that every bit of emotional or logistical support you can get to help matters immensely.  

I guess someone forgot to tell the organisers of this conference that.

So, despite all the great things about Mexico, the vibrant colours, the warm weather and the really friendly helpful people, all I’m really going to remember from this visit is the bus and how my legs couldn’t fit!

AOSIS wins award

The Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL) is pleased to award the inaugural Frederick R. Anderson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Addressing Climate Change to the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

For two decades, the 42 member States of AOSIS have served as the moral compass of international climate negotiations, demanding an agreement that reflects the increasing urgency of the climate crisis and the equal and sovereign right of every State to a safe climate. From their earliest work on an ambitious climate treaty to current efforts to strengthen emission reduction targets and emerging initiatives to transform their own energy sectors into drivers of sustainable development, the members of AOSIS have constantly challenged the global community to demonstrate the real leadership climate change demands. Through their collective efforts, the AOSIS members have demonstrated the power of even the smallest States when they stand together and speak with a single voice. In so doing, AOSIS has inspired many other countries and peoples to make themselves better heard by joining their voices together.

CIEL President Carroll Muffett presented AOSIS with the 2010 Frederick R. Anderson Award at a ceremony on December 7, 2010, during the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cancun, Mexico.


The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) is a coalition of small island and low-lying coastal countries that share similar development challenges and concerns about the environment, especially their vulnerability to the adverse effects of global climate change. It functions primarily as an ad hoc lobby and negotiating voice for small island developing States (SIDS) within the United Nations system.

AOSIS has a membership of 42 States and observers, drawn from all oceans and regions of the world: Africa, Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, Pacific and South China Sea.

The founders of CIEL assisted in the organization of AOSIS at the Second World Climate Conference in November 1990 and CIEL has been honored to assist AOSIS members many times in the ensuing years, including in the development of the Male’ Declaration on the Human Dimension of Global Climate Change.

About the Award

The Frederick R. Anderson Award for Outstanding Achievement in Addressing Climate Change was created in 2010 to commemorate twenty years of service by CIEL’s founding chairman, Frederick R. Anderson. In addition to his long service to CIEL, Mr. Anderson, served as the first President of the Environmental Law Insitute and the Dean of American University’s Washington College of Law. In 2010, he received the American Bar Association’s Award for Excellence in Environmental, Energy and Resources Stewardship. Mr. Anderson is a partner with the law firm of McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP in Washington, DC.

Youths mark 21,000 deaths with count

By Stanley Simpson, Climate Pasifika Media

Photos courtesy of Luana Bosanquet-Heays
 10 December, Cancun Mexico - Youths from all over the world – who have gathered in Cancun to push for action on climate change– have made a symbolic count from 1 to 21,000 to mark what they say are the 21,000 climate related deaths in 2010.

Holding banners that read ‘1.5 to stay alive’, ’21,000 climate related deaths in 2010’, and ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’ youths linked arms and counted outside while country delegations negotiated and pored over the final text inside.

The counting – which is expected to take a few hours to complete - was intermingled with short statements – that allowed them to take a breather.

Photos courtesy of Luana Bosanquet-Heays

Young people from the Pacific involved in the count were Luana from the Cook Islands and Romina from Fiji.

“Right now I am angry – because there is no legally binding agreement so far,” says Romina Datt.

“The leaders are not stepping up to save us.”

“We are really wanting our leaders to take up action because so far there is nothing – they have made no commitments for us – and zero emissions have been cut out – and on the 1.5 degrees it was announced last week that it will be postponed to next year – so we are counting on that.”

Datt and other youth activists expressed disappointment that countries like Japan and the US were opting out of a legally binding agreement.

“The US and other rich countries don’t demand for the ‘best science’ when they allow corporations to drill for oil and conduct mining, yet they are demanding for the best science on climate change in order to take action. We already have the best science,” a youth rep said.

As this story was sent – the count continued with the youths reaching the 6,000 mark.

(Note: the protest could not continue, security had to remove the protestors from the conference grounds as the time they had on their permission form had lapsed)

Fiji calls for climate action at Cancun

By Stanley Simpson, Climate Pasifika Media

Fiji presents the High level statement in Cancun, Mexico

9 December, Cancun Mexico - Fiji’s ambassador to Brussels and the head of Fiji’s delegation to United Nations climate change talks in Cancun, Mexico, Peceli Vocea has delivered the country’s statement to the gathering – calling on world leaders to agree to a legally binding agreement.

Ambassador Vocea says Fiji wants an effective international cooperation mechanism that provides finance for climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as capacity building and technology transfer.

He says the climate change reality was indeed grim for small island developing states – and called on the ‘movers and shakers’ of international politics to take heed of the island’s concerns.

“Madam President, Small Island Developing States like Fiji are paying a high price for the cumulative historical actions of others. Time is almost up for small island states like Fiji. We have been negotiating for too long with too little progress. We are the most vulnerable, and are at the front line.”

Ambassador Vocea says while Fiji was doing all it could to arrest and possibly reverse the negative effects of climate change – this would not be adequate without the support of development partners and the international community.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Scene@COP16 : Pacific and COP flavour

Kiribati delegation

Ambassador Beck, Solomon Islands and fellow delegate

Coral Pasisi - Forum Secretariat and Dr Netatua Pelesikoti SPREP

Rence Sore, Solomon Islands

Pasha Carruthers, Cook Islands

Espen Ronneberg SPREP and AOSIS delegates

The computer lab outside the Ciebo plenary room

Cook Islands

Tuvalu delegation meeting

Dr Netatua Pelesikoti SPREP, Ambassador Marlene Moses Nauru, Coral Pasisi Forum Secretariat

Mexico booth

Cook Islands delegates

High Level Statements: Vanuatu

Ambassador Donald Kalpokas, Vanuatu's Ambassador to the United Nations

Draft outcomes fall short of AOSIS expectations

By Makereta Komai, Climate Pasifika Media in Cancun, Mexico

09 DECEMBER 2010 CANCUN --- A day before the conclusion of the global climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, there is still no clarity on major issues pushed forward by Pacific Island Countries and their small island counterparts in the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean.

Chief among them is the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal to stay alive, the position that the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) has been lobbying for two years since the Conference of the Parties in Poznan in Poland.

The draft outcome of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Co-operative Action (AWG-LCA) released Wednesday still has 1.5 degrees bracketed with other options of and 1 and 2 degrees Celsius.

Any hope of inscribing the 1.5 goal looks increasingly dim as the United States leads the attack to stay with the below 2 degrees subscribed to in the Copenhagen Accord.

“I think the 2 degree goal is important. We try and guide our actions by what science is telling us. 2 degrees is sometimes looked at as talismanic but we follow what science is telling us."

US Climate Chief special envoy, Todd Stern, right, speaking to a delegate
“As we move forward, science might tell us that 2 degrees is too high or that 1.5 degrees is okay but for now the 2 degrees is a good goal to be in the agreement", said Todd Stern, the United States climate change special envoy.

But the proviso in the proposed draft is the period of the review of the increase in global temperature.

“I think we built into the Copenhagen Accord a provision for a review period in this agreement to take a look at how the world is doing. Our view is that the best way to proceed is for a review period, which should be linked to the science", said Stern

The draft outcome has endorsed a review period to take into account the best available scientific knowledge, observed impacts of climate change and to consider strengthening the long term goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The first review starts in 2013 and is expected to conclude by 2015.

On loss and damage, the draft outcome requests AWG-LCA to consider a mechanism to address loss and damage associated with climate change impacts in developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

This language is weaker than what AOSIS was asking for. The small island developing states (SIDS) wanted a mechanism established to take into account a disaster risk component, insurance and compensation funds to help SIDS manage the financial and economic risks arising from climate impacts. The mechanism should also assist in rapid recovery and rehabilitation from climate related extreme weather events and also address unavoidable damage and loss associated with adverse effects of climate change.

The draft outcome has recommended that a decision be taken at the next Conference of the Parties in Durban, South Africa in 2011.

A push for a new Green fund, proposed in the Copenhagen Accord, has found its way into the draft LCA outcome text.

Negotiators are yet to work out a name for the new fund and decide whether it will be established as a financial mechanism under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Samoa is keen to have the funds up and running, with representation on the Governing Board from SIDS.

“SIDS challenges and priorities are not identical to those of other negotiating groups both in focus, relative sizes and magnitude. It is critically important that SIDS has a voice in the transitional group to set up the Climate Fund, and in its Governing Board once its final architecture is in place", said Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, while addressing the High Level Segment of the negotiations.

PM Tuilaepa said the new Fund should be tailored to meet the needs of SIDS.

“Key to SIDS utilizing these resources is the ability to effectively access and manage them. In the absence of such modalities, any climate funding, old or new will be a disincentive and not a solution to the adaptation needs of the very group of vulnerable countries the fund was meant to address in the first place", said PM Tuilaepa.

Another element of the Copenhagen Accord now included in the proposed formal outcome is the fast start finance. There is general consensus that the US$30 billion committed for 2010-2012 must be equally shared between adaptation and mitigation and that the needs of most vulnerable developing states, such as the least developed countries and SIDS are prioritised.

At the end of 2010, most of the countries in the priority list have not received anything.

“It’s now a year after Copenhagen, and we still have not received any of the promised money", said President Anote Tong

Similarly, the same sentiments from Leaders of Nauru, Samoa, Palau, who attended the High Level Segment session here in Cancun.

One of the leading civil society organisations following the negotiations, Oxfam said a commitment to ensure that at least 50 percent of climate funding is dedicated to adaptation is missing.

"The delivery of adaptation finance to vulnerable communities already affected by climate change has been neglected so far. The new Climate Fund must close the adaptation gap to address this so that communities can protect themselves against the climate impacts of today and tomorrow," said Tim Gore, Oxfam’s international climate change advisor.

According Climate Action Network International (CAN), a group of influential civil society organisations around the world that at the end of 2010, an estimated 80 percent of the fast start finance had been allocated to mitigation and almost 10 percent was disbursed for adaptation purposed.

“This clearly shows that adaptation is the poor cousin of mitigation,” said CAN’s publication ECO.

Funding projects that have been approved for the Pacific and other Small Island Developing States have concentrated on renewable energy and energy efficiency, which accounts for the mitigation funds from the fast start finance. Denmark is the latest fast start finance donor to commit US$14.5 million for renewable energy projects in AOSIS nations.

The role of loans needs far greater clarity in the fast start finance.

“We know that a large proportion of the financing is being channelled as loans – 52 percent in the case of the European Union, for example", said ECO.

“That’s bad enough, countries should not have to get into debt to adapt to change that they didn’t cause."

On long term finance, the draft text endorsed that a scaled up, new and additional and predictable funding be made available to developing countries. Rich and industrialised countries will jointly mobilise US$100 billion a year by 2020 to help countries adapt to and mitigate against the impacts of climate change.

But there is strong push that developing nations (or Annex II) are roped into contributing to the long term finance pool.

This push by the rich nations has been reflected as an option in the draft outcome.

“Annex II countries shall provide 1.5 percent of their gross domestic product per year by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries", said the draft text.

To advance this agenda, the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon convened a distinguished group of eminent personalities to develop the thinking further. The group, led by Prime Ministers Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and Jens Stoltenberg of Norway have concluded that US$100 billion annually will be challenging but feasible.

Hours before the close of the climate talks, the UN’s climate chief, Christina Figueres remained optimistic that Cancun will deliver a balanced outcome.

“I see Parties continuing to work hard together to deliver a successful, balanced outcome that must be the next significant step in the world’s long road towards a full solution to the climate challenge."

Under the common umbrella of the United Nations, where every country has a voice, the Mexican Presidency of the UN climate change conference has set up a transparent, fully inclusive process. All countries are free to decide to participate and to join in finding the essential middle ground that will deliver success.

“I see a willingness of Parties to move positions. I see active and open exchange in the ministerial consultations, including how to reach political conciliation on anchoring mitigation proposals that have been made in 2010, clarity on the Kyoto Protocol, establishment of a fund for long-term finance, and decisions to implement action on forests, technology transfer and adaptation."

"But more needs to be done. I call on all sides to redouble their efforts and use creative ways to reach solutions, to travel the last mile to a successful outcome,” said Figueres

Italy and the Pacific unveil development finance model

By Stanley Simpson, Climate Pasifika Media

9 December Cancun Mexico - The government of Italy and Pacific island countries today unveiled a model for international cooperation they say can generate action on the ground at remarkable speed and is an example of what to do in practice to address the threat of climate change.

Further – they say the project ensures ownership to communities most affected by the negative effects of climate change.

The partnership between Italy and 14 Pacific island countries is in the area of renewable energy projects with some pioneering, dynamic and groundbreaking projects being undertaken across the region.

It started with a signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in 2007, and was further strengthened in 2008 when the government of Austria and the Municipality of Milan in Italy also joined and contributed to the partnership.

Italy’s Minister for the Environment, Land and Sea Stefania Prestigiacomo revealed today that more than 20 renewable energy projects have been designed and implemented in the 14 countries.

“These projects are contributing to assess the islands vulnerability to long term climate change effects to implement adaptation measures to strengthen the island energy infrastructure through the development of the local renewable energy potential,” she said. “It also ensures increased access to energy services of the islands population particularly for the remote rural communities."

Prestigiacomo stressed that the projects are designed at local scale and are strictly based on islands priorities and specific needs.

Nauru MP, the Hon. Dominic Tabuna in response said Italy and the Pacific have pioneered a unique development system model that delivers tangible results on the ground in a fraction of time. He outlined several reasons for the success of the model:

1. It works because it relies on streamlined vetting and approval process conducted directly by the donors and the recipients. This arrangement avoids unnecessary bottlenecks encountered under other models – where multiple layers of review – often by third parties – delay the commencement of critical projects

2. It works because it establishes clear funding priorities – in this case – renewable energy – giving clear guidance to project planners while also facilitating the review and approval process

3. It works because it operates out of New York at the United Nations. Tabuna says the Pacific challenge has always been its geographical remoteness which makes international coordination very difficult. Only in New York does the Pacific have the permanent presence of 11 Pacific island countries.

“The programme has been a wonderful success. We think it provides an alternative to multi-layered models and could provide a valuable model for the delivery of climate change finance,” says Tabuna.

He stated his belief that this was the single most effective funding model for the Pacific.

“It is responsive to the challenges we currently face in the Pacific. The model has the potential to usher in a new era of development assistance based on mutual trust and cooperation."

High level statement: Republic of the Marshall Islands

Hon. Mr. Ruben Zachkras, Minister In Assistance to the President, Republic of the Marshall Islands

Madame President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

“While the Marshall Islands understands the reluctance of some nations to fully commit to binding and definitive agreements at this time, we are also deeply concerned that if there is not a consensus to undertake serious preventative and restorative action on a global scale, time may run out.”

Those are the words spoken in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit by late Marshall Islands President and Iroij His Excellency Amata Kabua. Two decades later, and today – in Cancun – time is a luxury that the most vulnerable, those at the frontline, can no longer afford to squander on impossibly grand political agendas. However imperfect the start – the international community needs to upscale action now, and to look beyond both the petty differences of negotiators, and the underlying deep political wounds.

I can repeat all of the words that Marshallese have been saying for twenty years – that our nation is barely one meter above sea level, with no higher ground – that our nation is now facing a serious risk of losing our statehood to sea level rise. I can repeat our well-known prior positions. But you have heard these views so many times that perhaps your ears have become too numb.

But today I will do more than again repeat our urgent call – today I will tell you what is now taking place on the ground in one of the world's lowest lying nations. We are committed to implementing our national climate policy - leading towards firm action on adaptation particularly by conserving at least 30% of our near shore marine resources and 20% of our agro forestry resources by 2020, and to cut our own emissions – already very insignificant - by 40 percent by 2020. These are very real actions we have no choice but to carry out to give our local communities hope for a climate-resilient future. This is a future that we can only achieve through our own political commitment – coupled with the solidarity and partnership from the international community.

The Marshall Islands will be a visible test for the ultimate success – or failure – of fast start finance. In the higher politics of an important effort to boost better accounting for fast start finance, everyone seems to have lost focus of the overwhelming urgency of effective implementation, and of the need for mutual actions by donors and recipients needed to ensure results. The longer we wait – even a few years – the greater the costs and risks. It is unacceptably dangerous to delay action – not only a moral outrage, but on the cusp of a very legal wrong which will be squarely at the doorstep of the United Nations.

The Marshall Islands is already taking our own bold steps to help mobilize fast start financing – with our own Fast Start response. Our climate roadmap has laid the foundation for a national policy. Our national energy plan is the basis of our emissions commitment to cut emissions by 40% – and spells out exactly how we will achieve it. But behind the policies are government officials, who have mobilized a national climate coordinating committee, are moving to initiate and advance a host of concrete project initiatives to upscale and dramatically expand our adaptation and energy efforts, while also building our capacity.

We are not the only ones who seek to have our commitment acknowledged and fulfilled. The Republic of the Marshall Islands also strongly supports the 23 million people of Taiwan, who seek to have their own emissions actions – one of the strongest in the Asian rim – acknowledged through active observer participation in the UNFCCC.

Finally Madame President,

In the midst of what threatens to become a perpetual negotiation, we have forgotten the very foundation of the UNFCCC Convention itself – which already binds all of us to some very fundamental commitments and actions.

The international community has an inarguable responsibility to respond to the political crisis on climate with innovative solutions which build momentum through action – through defining what we can do instead of what we cannot – and to stretch our collective aspirations to ensure the survival of low-lying nations, even when present pathways are uncertain and ultimately inadequate.

It is the achievement of action by which future generations will sit in judgment of our vital conclusions.

Let me conclude by thanking you Madam President and the Government and people of Mexico for the excellent arrangement and leadership in steering these critical discussions.

Komol tata, Muchas gracias.

Leaders of Samoa, Nauru and Kiribati tell their stories and seek political leadership on climate change

By Makereta Komai, Climate Pasifika Media in Cancun, Mexico

Leaders Dialogue image courtesy of UNFCCC

09 DECEMBER 2010 CANCUN --- Samoan Prime Minister did not mince his words when he told the international community ‘we need your technology but don’t use the islands as a testing ground.’

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi was part of a high level panel of world leaders that’s simultaneously trying to find solutions to reach an acceptable outcome here in Cancun that will reverse the climate crisis.

“Technology must be appropriate and affordable for us in the islands. We should not be used as a dumping ground for obsolete technology, said the Samoan Prime Minister. 

"To benefit from these technologies, we cannot do it alone but need the partnership of the private ector and the multilateral donors", he added.

Also on the panel were the Presidents of Kiribati and Nauru, who spoke from the heart and reminded the international community of their obligations to ensure their nations remain on the face of the earth.

“I have been asked several times in parliament about resources to build sea walls to protect the outer islands from rising sea level. My replies have been yes, we have done the studies and the costs involved but we have no resources."

“It’s now a year after Copenhagen, and we still have not received any o f the promised money", said President Tong.

The Kiribati leader, who is a well known advocate for vulnerable states said the situation is so grim for Kiribati that, ‘as a nation, we might not even be part of these negotiations in the next decade.’

He suggested to the chair of the dialogue, the President of Mexico, the need for world leaders to intervene and rescue the negotiations.

“I don’t know whether it’s too late in the process now but the climate change negotiations need a political and humanitarian decision.  I don’t know whether we need to convince the negotiators but, we as Leaders need to sit down and make decisions on issued that negotiators cannot resolve", said President Tong.

Kiribati did not support the Copenhagen Accord in 2009 but recently associated itself with the Accord to access the fast start finance package that accompanied the Accord.

Similarly, President Marcus Stephen of Nauru, with few words expressed the gravity of the effects of climate change on his home island

“Our priority is survival before financing,  Financing is perfect for us to adapt to the changes that we are seeing but survival is our immediate need."

President Nauru was responding to the comments by the President Felipe Calderon who said that ‘perfect may be the enemy of the good.’

He rejected any notion that the small island nations were trying to ‘derail’ the negotiations but merely putting their case for the world to see.

“1.5 degree Celsius is what the science is saying and we cannot ignore that", said President Stephen.

Pacific Island nations, together with other small island developing states in the Caribbean and Indian Ocean have lobbied for global temperatures be limited to well below 1.5 degree Celsius and concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stabilise at around 350 parts per million. 

The group of 43 nations also want global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) to peak by 2015 and decline thereafter. They also want Annex 1 parties to the UN Climate Convention (rich and industrialised nations) to reduce their GHG emissions by more than 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and more than 95 percent by 2050, given their historical responsibility.

 Below is the Statement made by the Hon. Tuilaepa Sailele Malilegaoi, the Prime Minister of Samoa at the second Panel of "Heads of State or Government Dialogues" on "The struggle against climate change, what would our legacy be?" at Moon Palace Hotel, Cancun, Mexico, 9 December 2010.

Mr President,
Ladies and Gentlemen

Leaders who spoke before me had given us rare insights on how we should own up individually and collectively to our responsibility to protect our environment for future generations.

My input, by necessity, will be through the perspectives of Samoa, a small island developing state in the Pacific Ocean. Already we have quite a diverse and colorful menu and hopefully my contribution will give it a Pacific tropical flavor.

Let me respond to the five questions posed one by one.  

1) Which characteristics should an economic development model have in order for it to be sustainable?

From Samoa’s perspective, development must be country owned and country led and should be a bottom-up approach through an extensive consultation and negotiation process utilizing both traditional channels and structures. Moreover, development should be country focused & country tailored taking into account the physical, socio-economic and political circumstances and capacities as well as the aspirations of the people.  

Underpinning all this is the need for bold leadership and a stable government capable and willing to provide an enabling environment for people’s views to be articulated and to help strengthen the private sector’s role as the engine of growth.

In the context of climate change, we need to bear in mind that as much as the challenges of climate change are the product of man’s actions, the existing technologies, lifestyles and level of consumption by society, one hopes that these same challenges will bring forth a wave of innovative solutions to help mitigate against the negative impacts of climate change.

Importantly, what seems to have endured in any model, be it economic, social, military or political is an integrated approach that allows innovation to build on and strengthen indigenous, local or existing systems.  As local ownership of any policy or model, adaptation or mitigation, is critical to its long terms success.

2) How can we ensure that there is sustained and sufficient financing for climate change in the long term?

Samoa’s adaptation and mitigation funding needs will continue to outstrip the level of resources available to it at any given time.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) as the Convention’s financial mechanism had a successful 5th replenishment. This is positive news for most of the Pacific island states that will get national allocations of GEF resources for the first time, after being recipients for many years mainly of enabling activities. As well, the decision to trial out on a pilot basis direct access of parties through accredited national or regional implementing agencies is long overdue.

Outside of GEF, there is funding potential in the Adaptation Fund under the Kyoto Protocol. The line of parties queuing up with requests for financial resources under this modality is getting longer, not shorter, and the current level of resources is insufficient to accommodate all the requests.

How can the financing be sustained?
This can partly be achieved by all, or most of the following being realized;
  • the full monetization of the US$5.5 billion replenishment pledges for GEF 5
  • the need for clarity on the level of Fast Start Finance not yet committed and unearmarked and specific criteria for accessing them,
  • Possible increase of the current level of CDM proceeds to the Adaptation Fund
  • More development partners donating generously to the Adaptation Fund
  • Replenishment of the Least Developed Countries Fund and the Special Climate Change Fund respectively through an assessed contribution formula, and not via voluntary pledges as currently is the case;
  • Pursuing bilateral or region-specific arrangements for funding towards climate-related projects
  • Coming into force of the new Green/Climate Fund  etc

3 What are some of the trends in mitigation and adaptation?

The Pacific island countries are heavily reliant on fossil fuels for energy, electricity and transportation, yet their 0.03 % of global emissions is relatively insignificant to solving of the climate change problem.

This however has not deterred Pacific island countries from undertaking both regional and national level mitigation projects on a voluntary basis. Samoa is amongst these countries, and has adopted a national energy policy to become carbon-free by 2020. Similarly, Tonga, Vanuatu, Cook Islands, Marshall Islands and others are undertaking national level initiatives under various funding mechanisms.

The magnitude and cost of climate change and the fact that small island states are right up there with the rest doing their share to adapt and mitigate against the adverse effects of climate change within the confines of limited resources availability, sometimes at great expense, underscore their determination to be part of the global solution. 

On the adaptation side, some key initiatives in the Pacific include the mainstreaming of climate change into sectoral and to national development planning, integrating climate change with disaster risk reduction and education and awareness through information dissemination and capacity building.

Renewable energy, ocean energy, solar power and hydro electricity all have appeals for the Pacific islands given the plentiful supply of some of these inexhaustible resources like sunlight, wind, waves and ocean etc. Yet start up costs and overall maintenance can be challenges though not insurmountable.

 4) Is existing technology enough to face the challenges of climate change?

Technology must be appropriate and affordable. It must be suitable to the conditions in the islands both in terms of the weather, terrain, population size and even distance from sources of expertise and supplies for maintenance purposes. Importantly, the islands should not be used as testing or dumping grounds for obsolete, inferior and untested technology no matter how it was procured.

A genuine concern is the relatively small sizes of the islands, their markets, populations and the lack of economies of scales.  Combined, they will serve to discourage potential investors from investing or selling climate-related technology in large quantities in the islands. Effectively this means that for the islands to benefit from any new technology, they will have to access it via partnerships with the Public sector, i.e. developed countries through bilateral or other funding arrangements.

5) How can we teach the future generations to face these changes?

Samoa has been concerned with the lack of progress on the issue of education and awareness under the Convention and is happy to see that there is new impetus to address this.

We have been working on a number of initiatives to mainstream climate change into our school curriculum and found that the best approach is not to have a stand-alone climate change course or an elective course. The more efficient way is to include climate change modules with the existing curriculum that is being taught for the purpose of national exams. It is feasible to incorporate climate change issues in different types of lessons, from mathematics’, social science and physical science to literacy and expressive arts.  We need to assist the teachers by facilitating easy access to lesson modules they can use in the context of teaching towards the national exams.

The regional meteorology work is assisted by installing weather stations at schools that are maintained and monitored by the students who in turn gain a better understanding of climate variability and climate change.

A climate change documentary festival organized 2 years ago by SPREP resulted in 17 movies produced to educate the people of the industrialized countries of the stark reality that Pacific islands face. Once they realize the importance of Annex1 countries taking action, perhaps they could put greater pressure on their national leaders to help stop this climate change disaster.  

Alternatively, may be a summary version of the movies can be produced for kindergarten levels. Perhaps by aiming our message at a more simple audience we could drive home the message more forcefully that inaction is placing small island states in greater peril than people will care to admit.

Finally, what should our legacy be?

It has been a long and frustrating journey of high expectations and shattered hopes especially for small island developing states. They contributed the least to the causes of climate change, yet stand to suffer the most and least able to adapt effectively to the adverse impacts.

Notwithstanding these grim realities, Pacific small island nations continue to negotiate in good faith. Even if everyone deserts the negotiating table for whatever reason, we will continue to be there and hopeful that reason will prevail, and the time will come when we are finally able to turn a global problem into a global opportunity, where our focus should be on the positive of climate change, not on its negative consequences and when, as the true world leaders we are, we should just fix our mistakes and those of our predecessors, after all, the buck stops here and climate change is happening under our watch. That’s should be our legacy.