Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Negotiating for our Pacific survival

Durban, South Africa, 5 December - It’s within small, hot rooms sometimes with fewer chairs than there are people, that the fate of the Pacific islands is being negotiated this week.

The UN Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa enters week two with negotiations moving slowly and the challenges being difficult. The calls for urgency from the Alliance of Small Island States are either not being heard, or are ignored.

Protesters call upon negotiators for a world with a future 
“We want to see something that will make sure that our islands, our people survive that the end goal is to keep global warming well below 1.5 degrees Celsius,” said Andrew Yatilman, Director of the Office of Environment and Emergency Management of the Federated States of Micronesia.

“What happens here in Durban is quite significant, if something actually happens here that would help prevent the negative climate change impacts to our vulnerable communities, it would save our people.”

The different negotiation themes are complex and web like with many different issues on the table, there is no one main meeting with one main battle.

For example some of the threads negotiated by AOSIS here is the call to operationalise the Green climate fund; ensure there is a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol and; have a clear agreement that there will be a new legally binding protocol to complement the Kyoto Protocol with binding mitigation commitments for non-Kyoto parties and mitigation actions for developing countries as well.

While the Pacific region may contribute to 0.03% of the World’s total greenhouse gases which lead to climate change, we are amongst the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Andrew Yatilman with collegues at morning AOSIS plenary

"Coastal erosion is a big deal for us in FSM,” said Yatilman.

The Federated States of Micronesia is made up of 607 islands which culminate in 4 states; Pohnpei, Kosrae, Chuuk, Yap that are home to a population of 110 thousand people.

“You can see some of our islands have infrastructure such as water tanks and some concrete structures that now sit in water, already useless. We have lost up to 10 meters to our shores in some areas with sea level rise. We are having more droughts that impact upon our farmers brining a loss of livelihood for them and we also sit in a typhoon belt which poses a destructive threat to us.”

Total annual emissions must be reduced to no more than 44 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide by 2020, and continue on a steep decline to keep warming well below 1.5 degrees. This is the temperature level that science has shown will help us avoid other devastating impacts.

Last year total annual emissions pushed 48 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, and even if countries meet the reduction targets they made last year at the 16th Conference of the Parties in Cancun, the world does not met the safe level of emissions, setting the stage for a temperature increase of 3 degrees or more.

Many Pacific communities are experiencing the impacts of climate change now, unless we can negotiate to achieve the AOSIS ‘asks’ here in Durban, South Africa, life will only get worse for Small Islands Developing States.

“We want urgent action, that is been what we have been after all this time but knowing that this is a multi-lateral process where you have over 190 parties at the table discussing coming to an agreement it’s not an easy process.”

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