Friday, 18 December 2009

Papua New Guinea@COP15: Environmental Revolution

Prime Ministerial Statement

Obviously, this is not an audience that needs to be convinced that climate Change is real.

For Pacific Island states, however, some of our habitats and islands face total obliteration.  Without question, climate change is the greatest challenge of our time.

Therefore, my objective in coming to Copenhagen is to identify what needs to be done by our countries together - rich and poor!  Papua New Guinea seeks to contribute to a legally-binding, robust and effective outcome as soon as possible.
Today, humanity stands at a cross-road.  Old energy technologies are bringing about untold damage due to global warming. 
At the same time, we have the knowledge and technology necessary to totally power our economies from renewable energy while halting forest loss and improving food security.
Leaders, such as myself, must seize this challenge and fundamentally restructure our developmental pathways.  Economic growth must be forever disconnected from carbon emissions. 
With thoughtful support, maybe developing countries, like mine, can frame the next ‘revolution’ – the ‘Environmental Revolution.’ 
Do we stand a chance? As we are seeing in Papua New Guinea, we must understand that climate change is occurring faster than the experts predicted.  Indeed, it is likely that we need to stabilize at 350 parts per million, not 450 parts per million!
To return to 350 parts per million, however, we must protect and increase our forests and broadly apply new technologies including carbon capture and storage and negative carbon.

Therefore, rather than blaming our problems on others, Papua New Guinea is focused on becoming part of the solution. Last Wednesday, my Government adopted a Draft ‘Climate Compatible Development Plan.’ 
In summary, my Government has accepted the challenge to become effectively carbon neutral by 2030, meaning a 100% reduction against Business As Usual, while at the same time tripling our GDP-per-capita.   
Obviously, this objective is highly dependent on adequate, predictable, and sustainable financial support.
In order to do this, we must focus on three key mitigation areas:
1.      Land Use ;
2.      Power Generation; and
3.      Transportation.

At the same time, we must simultaneously adapt to these five challenges:
1.      Coastal Flooding;
2.      Malaria;
3.      Inland Flooding;
4.      Agricultural yield change; and
5.      Damage to coral reefs.

While it may appear to some that our goals are overly ambitious for a Small Island Developing State, we believe otherwise.  In fact, we believe it would be NEGLIGENT to pursue any other course.
For most developing countries, our forests and rivers have sustained us for thousands of years. But, in some ways, we now feel trapped!  The old ways allowed us to survive, but cannot prepare our children for the future. 
With the ecosystem services of our land valued at zero, our rural communities that depend on and care for forests must make a living in other ways.   
The result is around 20% of global carbon emissions. 

Clearly, we cannot defeat the ravages of climate change without also defeating deforestation!

The challenge of REDD+, therefore, is to value forests more alive than dead.

But, how much is enough?  The recent international effort which focused on the interim financial needs for REDD+, has determined that between 15 to 25 billion Euros may underwrite a 25% reduction in global rates of deforestation by 2015.  

At first, that sounds like a lot.  Put another way, we are talking only 1.5 cents-per-day for the citizens of the United States and Europe - OR - about equal to the Goldman Sachs bonus pool for the year of 2009.

If we can make REDD+ work, our communities can continue to live sustainably, something most of the world has forgotten---in the rush to get ahead!

To conclude, if we are to slow, stop and reverse the effects of global warming, we must thoughtfully redesign our value frameworks.  

For example, Exxon, the remaining king of the ‘Age of Oil,’ is valued at over $325 billion; while Google, the champion of the ‘Information Age’, is valued around $190 billion.  At the same time, left standing, the world’s last great tropical forests are valued at ZERO!

If Exxon and Google together disappear tomorrow, the vast majority of humanity will not even notice. 

While if the world’s tropical forests disappear into smoke by morning, every human on earth will wake up to a world forever changed! 

This is not rational!  Therefore, we must act now!

To succeed in Copenhagen by Friday, clearly, bold leadership will be required on both sides of the economic divide to forge this change!

Leadership is also essential for effective implementation.

Sheikh Zaki Yamani, the former Minister for Energy of Saudi Arabia, famously opined: “The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone, and the Oil Age will end long before the world runs out of oil.”

The Copenhagen Climate Change process must result in a legally binding agreement.  Such an agreement can catalyse the necessary ‘Environmental Age’, lest we suffocate life on earth beneath our greed!

Thank you!

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