Sunday 13 December 2009

Half-way to a COP outcome, the islands take stock

Lisa Williams-Lahari, Climate Pasifika media team
Sunday 13 December 2009, COPENHAGEN-- The Sunday half-way lull in COP15 activities at the Bella Centre is a deceptive one. Most Pacific leaders are already into the 30-plus hours of air travel and transitting involved in getting here early next week. Behind the scenes and away from the public eye, their delegations and other Pacific participants are planning how to negotiate their way through the remaining working group, side sessions, activist meetings, and press conferences as the pace picks up towards Friday's deadline. As the busy first week draws to a close, one of the three AOSIS vice-chairs, Ambassador Colin Beck of the Solomon Islands, and environmental scientist Dr Al Binger of Jamaica, take stock of a week where all eyes have been on the parties to the UFCCC Conventon who have the most to lose at these negotiations. Says AOSIS scientist-turned-activist Dr Al Binger, "We are slowly progressing towards all the things we hopefully will achieve: a good agreement on a legally binding framweork for all the commitments on the table-- right packaging of financing to support adaptation needs and mitigation, agreement on a good insurance system to protect the losses in the SIDS, a dedicated window for us to access finansing and other aspects and platforms from New York".
"We will not accept two degrees. We will not agree to our own demise. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever."

Given it's only been a few months since the New York sessions where the AOSIS position on 1.5degrees Celsius was launched, Beck says the time of "talking past each other" has passed and at this COP nations are finally talking TO each other. "We have moved past all that (talking) and now need to be talking numbers and finances and know where the resources and have more detailed discussions rather than trying to advocate for where we are; but really to get things on the table and sign the dotted lines," he says in a quick on-camera moment below. 
Meanwhile, Tuvalu's call for a contact group remains off the agenda but on the table, pending 'further discussions'. The country's chief negotiator Ian Fry became the international media's most sought after interview -- and up until he tabled a heart-felt call for the Chair on Saturday, still insisted the much misunderstood and misinterpreted roar from Tuvalu over rules of procedure had more to do with the billions who live in the AOSIS regions, and was not in fact about the 11,000 or so clinging to their livelihoods in the former Ellis Islands. Despite that, Tuvalu and Kiribati as well as a canny and upbeat cadre of young activists from the Pacific, have helped embed the 'call to conscience' perceptions of AOSIS which have earned the support of so many green activists from the developed world. Along the same lines, Pacific activists such as Fei Tevi of the Pacific Conference of Churches, Ulamila Wragg of the Pacific WAVE Media Network, and Malia Nobrega of an indigenous peoples NGO in Hawaii, are in turn ensuring that the churches, human rights, gender and other civil society concerns are on the radar of the AOSIS leaders teams. But united as they may be on '1.5 to stay alive', island nations are not immune to the same frictions dogging the powerful Annex-1 nations who will ultimately decide the fate of this event. Papua New Guinea's chief negotiator Kevin Conraud, who rocketed to international media headlines in 2007 for telling the US in no uncertain terms to step aside and 'leave it to the rest of us' after a particularly draining exercise in wasted time, earned a few bleeps himself this week within the AOSIS grouping for remarks which distanced PNG from the AOSIS consensus.The position of Papua New Guinea, where three quarters of the Pacific's 8million and growing population are living,  will take on heightened weight next week as it deals with environmental issues on a scale unmatched by anyone else in the Pacific forum family.--ENDS

REDD could be better than gold but safeguards needed says Solomon Islands

Evan Wasuka, Solomon Islands One News

The Solomon Islands delegation say the rights of resource owners and communities need to safeguarded in the text of the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, REDD, agreement in Developing Countries.

Dr Wairiu says the carbon trade has the potential to create wealth for countries like the Solomon Islands but he warned if mismanaged, it could also lead to further exploitation if it is not looked after properly.

Officials at the UN Climate Talks in Copenhagen are currently drafting the text for REDD.

The main sticking point has been the financial mechanisms of the system but officials are optimistic that the agreement will be adopt at this meeting and will allow developing nations to enter the carbon trade.

For countries like Solomon Islands that have a limited economic base and rely heavily on logging for their main revenue source, the carbon trade provides a potential boon.

“Carbon is the next gold, it will be listed on the stock exchange and traded internationally,” says Dr Wairiu.

He says the returns will be much better than the logging industry but he warned that if it is not managed properly it could also lead to further poverty.

“From the Solomon Islands experience it is the logging companies that have benefitted from our forests…that is why we need safeguards.”

Dr Wairiu says protecting the rights of resource owners and local communities is vital for the final REDD outcome which officials expect will be part of any agreement at Copenhagen.

“We need to ensure that there are safeguards in place that will not be manipulated by individuals and companies.”

Since the 1970s Solomon Islands forests have been logged out by mostly Asian companies with minimal returns to landowners.

Dr Wairiu says Solomon Islands has learnt its lesson the hard way and is taking its experience into the drafting of REDD. For its part the Solomon Islands government will also have to put in place measures for its participation in the REDD programme.

The priority for the Solomon Islands government is to come up with a national framework, which would also contain safeguards that are part of any international agreement.

Dr Wairiu says this include outline how the benefits are shared, who will handle them and how resource owners will benefit.

The preparation phase for Solomon Islands he says could take up to four years while Melanesian neigbours Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea already have projects in place and are in better position to implement REDD.

The REDD programme which run by a multitude of UN agencies aims to deal with the 20 per cent of  emssions that are caused by deforestation.

The remaining 80 per cent of emissions are caused by industry and are the main subject of the two weeks climate change talks in Copenhagen.

Relocation a harsh reality for Pacific: PCC

Ahimsa Kibikibi, NBC PNG, Climate Pasifika
Saturday 12 December 2009, COPENHAGEN--The Pacific Conference of Churches' General Secretary, Fei Tevi has expressed concerns that resettlement does not feature in the mandate of sovereign Pacific states but is the harsh reality the region has to face up to. He said climate change is already taking its toll in the Pacific, with many small lying atolls being forced into resettlement because of raising sea levels. He said churches play a major role in the Pacific and Copenhagen must produce a legally binding agreement otherwise the economic cost of rebuilding and resettlement will be just too much. The Pacific Conference of Churches will be facilitating those that are forced to move, he said. The Pacific Conference of Churches, Fei Tevi has expressed concerns that resettlement does not feature in the mandate of sovereign Pacific states but is the harsh reality, the region has to face up to. He said climate change is already taking its toll in the Pacific, with many small lying atolls being forced into resettlement because of raising sea levels. He said churches play a major role in the Pacific and Copenhagen must produce a legally binding agreement otherwise the economic cost of rebuilding and resettlement will be just too much. “The role of the Pacific Conference of Churches is to ensure those who move, move in dignity,” he said--ENDS.

EU keen to know of priority issues in the AOSIS region

Ruci Mafi, SPC - Copenhagen, Denmark 12 December - The European Union has been closely monitoring climate change discussions within the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) plenary to identify priority issues in the region.

European Commission Director General for the Environment, Karl Falkenberg said with the EU’s
commitment to ensuring climate change development issues were placed on the agenda at the COP 15, it was also important to know what AOSIS will come up with.

The EU currently supports projects in fisheries, agriculture, food security and forestry in the Pacific region.

Mr Falkenberg emphasized the need for a unified approach and voice to strengthen proposals and ensure financing is guaranteed.

By Friday last week over half of the EU’s 27 member states had indicated they would contribute about £1.35 billion a year between them for the next three years to climate change.

This amount includes nearly £265 million a year from the UK.

The European Union continues to received offers from within its members targeting a astronomical £2 billion a year on the table at the Copenhagen next week.

The largest contributions came from Britain at £800 million over the next three years and Sweden, at £690 million between 2010-2013.

In a statement deleivered earlier, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso indicated the need to deliver to Copenhagen a substantial EU offer of "fast start" funding towards a global kitty to help poorer countries.

While discussions are looking at financing, the EU has had to put on the table its carbon emission target.

However, reportrs noted that the French president Nicolas Sarkozy is ready for the EU to move to 30 per cent unconditionally.

Your voices @ COP15 Project Survival

Geoffrey Smith, FijiTV, Climate Pacific media
Sunday 13 December 2009, COPENHAGEN-- Over the past week a handful of Pacific youth have had the unique opportunity to have their voices heard at COP15. This has been largely possible the pioneering efforts of a small but growing youth group based out of Australia. Realising after COP14 last year that the voice of our Pacific youth was obviously absent, in May this year a select group from the Pacific was handpicked to represent their respective communities as the world began planning for COP15. Born in Fiji and now living out of Australia, youth activist Shobazdeep Kand is articulate, full of energy, and represents a wave of hope for visionary Pacific leaders. He explains why the voice of our Pacific youth is critical at an important climate change summit such as COP15.

TRANSCRIPT: Project Survival Pacific was started at last years COP14 and we noted that there was a lack of representation from the Pacific and the Pacific voice really needed to be heard. And that voice included the youth voice. So the Australians went back to Australia and we set up in May of this year an organisation in which I'm now part of called Project Survival Pacific and our aim is to really to try and build a pacific youth network of environmentally concerned youth who can come to things like this and lobby their governments and talk to western governments like Australia and New Zealand in the region to tell them why it is important for them, their communities and their future that we act on climate change. So here at Copenhagen we have 10 Pacific youth, two from Fiji and several from other countries and what they're trying to do this week is to meet with their governments and we met with Peni Wong yesterday to lobby her on behalf of the Pacific and also try and get into the media and get the Pacific voice out. Because we find that youth from the western world like Australia and New Zealand, have these opportunities to come and talk to their leaders but the voices of the Pacific Islanders is not there. So the next phase of our project is to go back home and send the delegates here to try and support them in building those organisations back home.--ENDS

Cook Islands vacates seat in UN expert group

Ulamila Kurai Wragg, Cook Islands Government Delegation, Denmark

Copenhagen, 12 December - The Cook Islands is vacating a seat, it held for three terms, on the Expert Group on Technology Transfer within the United Nations Framework Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC).

Climate change negotiator and Environment’s International Manager Tania Temata says that the Cook Islands, through Tom Wichman, served on the Expert Group for three terms. He was nominated by Government as an expert from the Pacific to represent Asia and the Pacific region on the group.

“That seat has now come up for re-election. Last year we received a counter proposal from another Asia-Pacific country for this position, and given that our Asia Pacific Group is such a huge group, Cook Islands will not be seeking for re-election,” says Temata.

"Given the length of term the Cook Islands has served on the EGTT, it was only appropriate that other Pacific Islands be given the opportunity as well.”

The Expert Group on Technology Transfer (EGTT) was established with the aim to enhance the implementation of this framework and to advance the technology transfer activities under the Convention. Over the last five years, the work of the EGTT has become results oriented, with the production of targeted and instructive products that Parties can use as they formulate their specific climate change mitigation and adaptation technology strategies.

Technology needs and needs assessments are a set of country-driven activities that identify and determine the mitigation and adaptation technology priorities particularly of developing countries.

"The Cook Islands is lucky to have someone like Tom Wichman, who has a passion for simple technology development and innovations for small islands, and his representation on the EGTT was widely supported by our Pacific neighbours,” says Temata.

“We have very high regard for him for the knowledge he has in this field and is highly respected within the climate change circle"

Elections will be carried out at the UN climate change negotiations in Copenhagen.

INsideINsights@COP15: Matelita Ragogo

Saturday 12 December 2009, COPENHAGEN--Fiji journalist Matelita Ragogo is currently London-based pursuing postgraduate studies in Gender, and was excited to be able to join the media mix at COP15 thanks to a UNFCCC scholarship. Ragogo shares her media insights from the Bella Centre as our INsideINsight coverage continues.

Your voices @ COP15: Espen Ronneberg, SPREP's Climate Change Adviser

Geoffrey Smith, FIJI TV, Climate Pasifika

Saturday 12 December 2009, COPENHAGEN-- The Climate Pasifika team managed to catch SPREP's Climate Change adviser Espen Ronnenberg between meetings:
TRANSCRIPT:  Well the Pacific has really been engaging in the negotiations. They've been really trying to get their point across in the different negotiating groups. They're also working together with AOSIS to develop an alternative proposal for a legally binding agreement which they've tabled. So there's quite a lot going on and the Pacific is being very active and I think they're making a very big impact this time.

Your voice @ COP 15: Peter Emberson Pacific Council of Churches

Geoffrey Smith, Fiji TV, Climate Pasifika

Sunday 12 December, COPENHAGEN -- As COP15 wraps up its first week of intense negotiations in the lead up to the arrival of over a hundred world leaders, the 43 member Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) hopes they can add a unique Pacific spiritual dimension to the climate talks.
Consisting largely of all the major religious denominations in the Pacific, the PCC says in an international summit of this nature, valuable input from bodies such as theirs can also serve as a conscience above some of the competing interests that have become obvious.

TRANSCRIPT:The churches are basically the conscience of meetings like this.  In the rush for deals to be struck that has financial implications and a lot of other profit hidden agendas, we liken ourselves to the conscience so we come in and remind our leaders that for issues that have high implications like climate change, rationalisation along profit and purely focusing on the financial aspects of things is very short sighted. Because in order to safeguard our natural resources and our human resources we need to look beyond and take courage and not only focus on these kinds of financial implications and neo-liberal economies.-- ENDS.

Small Island states call for financing

By Evan Wasuka, Solomon Islands One News TV

Copenhagen 12 December - The vice president of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), which includes all Pacific Island countries say developed nations must do good on their pledge to provide financial support to developing countries on climate change.

Cape Verde Ambassador Monterio Lima says the developed nations have caused climate change and they must pay the price.

“We didn’t put the rubbish in the atmosphere but we are the first to suffer. They must clean it up.”

Lima says developed countries have yet to finalise the amount of money they will giving out but he says this needs to be done urgently.

“I’ve heard around $7billion maybe – its not enough but it’s a start,” the diplomat told reporters at a press conference organized by non governmental organization

His comments follow the launching of the AOSIS’s proposal for a legally binding agreement at Copenhagen.

Key to the proposal is the call by AOSIS to reduce the level of carbon in the atmosphere from 389pm to 350ppm.

The AOSIS proposal provides the toughest restriction for industrial countries and will be the subject of negotiations over the weekend.

The founder of environmental and anti-poverty group described the text as the first attempt to follow what scientists have been saying.

“This is the first rational attempt to do what needs to be done,” says Bill McKibben.

Meanwhile non governmental organizations have taken action with vigils being staged around the world to mark the launch of AOSIS’s text and a call for world leaders to accept the proposal.

On Saturday a march will take place from Denmark’s Parliament to the Bella Centre – the venue of the UN Climate Talks – where South African Archbishop – Desmond Tutu will hold a vigil.

Lima says world leaders should accept the proposal, if not future generations will be forced to pay the price. AOSIS is made up 43 countries from around the world including Pacific Island countries.

The grouping has so far given developed countries the toughest line on reducing emissions.

“We are not negotiating economics , we’re not negotiating business, we are negotiating our survival.”

Some of those countries will disappear if we go beyond 1.5 degrees in global warming, he says.

Climate Change Christmas Carol

Copenhagen 12 December - Nanette Woonton, SPREP, Climate Pasifika - Those who arrived early to the Conference centre this morning were heralded by Christmas carols with a climate change twist!  The “Plantations are not forests” choir sang the 14 days of Climate Change as part of their protest to remind negotiaters that plantations are not forests and that REDD must protect intact natural forests.

“On the seventh day in Denmark
The UN gave to me
Endangered species
Forests converted
Crap MRV
Too much fossil fuels
Trees chain sawed
No strings attached
And a big fat logging subsidy!”

Pressure mounts on reaching a fair and equitable new global climate deal

By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS, Climate Pasifika

Copenhagen, 12 December - As negotiations reached their midway point at COP15, the pressure on countries to strike a fair deal before their Head of Sates arrive next week is intensifying.

Amongst these group of nations is the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) that is trying to push for its ‘legally binding and ambitious’ proposal, called the Copenhagen Protocol.

AOSIS chair, Ambassador Dessima Williams admits that, “we cannot agree on everything.”

“We are group of 135 nations at the United Nations and we are so different in so many ways.

“But the AOSIS would like to see the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol and we call on the developed countries to honor their commitments under the Convention. We are unified in calling for an adequate response to climate change. It should commensurate to the damages we have suffered.

Ambassador Williams said most of her small vulnerable island nations seek adequate financing for the short and long term.

“For us, being adequate is really that it should be responsive to the damages done to our islands as a result of the impact of climate change.

“Some countries need a dose of reality here and our AOSIS proposal brings that, said Ambassador Williams.

Her sentiments were echoed by the chair of the Conference of the Parties, Ms. Connie Hedegraad who called for a ‘spirit of flexibility, compromise and reality’ as negotiators begin negotiations in earnest on the proposed draft text.

AOSIS represents 43 members and observers, many of whom are small island developing countries. Most of them are using the negotiation process of the Conference of the Parties to raise their specific vulnerabilities.

Tuvalu has been very vocal right from the start of the climate change talks here in Copenhagen, especially on its proposal to amend some provisions of the Kyoto Protocol.

Debate on Tuvalu’s proposed amendment was moved to Saturday for consideration by the Conference of the Parties on the Kyoto Protocol (COP) after its chief negotiator, Ian Fry refused to give in to pressures from India, Brazil and Saudi Arabia.

At the resumption of the plenary session on Saturday, COP President, Connie Hedegraad announced that ‘progress was being made but more consultations needed to be done.’

“We hope to come up with a consensus decision next week, said Ms Hedegraad.

Mr Fry commended the chair for her effort and asked that ‘Tuvalu’s proposal is not swept under the carpet.’

“We seek substantative discussion on our proposal. Let me clarify, Tuvalu’s position is to preserve the architecture of the Kyoto Protocol and we don’t want it to merge with another agreement.

“If our proposal is not adequately discussed than we consider that as a grave injustice. And we plead with the chair not to impose this injustice on us, pleaded Mr Fry.

Ms Hedegraad assured Tuvalu that its proposal will not be swept under the carpet.

India, China and Brazil oppose Tuvalu’s proposed amendments because they claim it calls for very specific emission reduction from them. The three countries are classed as major emitters from developing countries that are not required to commit legally binding emission reduction under the current Kyoto Protocol.

Similarly, the United States wants emerging economies to bring their national mitigation actions under ‘international wraps.’  United States chief climate negotiator, Todd Stern said, the draft text as it is does not force developing countries to take action.

“It’s not an acceptable position and for the U.S that is the basic element of a deal here. Mr Stern said the mitigation aspect of the text is ‘unbalance.’

“We believe that developed and major developing countries must reflect their strong action in a new agreement.

“In the draft, developed nations shall take action, whereas developing countries may take action…It comes down to the difference between shall and may,” said Mr Stern.

The United States, he said does not deny its responsibility as the largest historical emitter of greenhouse gas emissions and it’s taking action to meet its legal obligations.

"But all the growth of emissions or 97 percent come from developing countries. This is not our figure but from the International Energy Agency in Paris. They need to step up too, said Mr Stern.

The six page draft text, produced by Michael Zammit Cutajar, chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long  Term Co-operative Action (AWG-LCA, may form the core of the new global agreement to combat climate  change beyond 2012.

Most of the figures in the text are shown in brackets – meaning that there is not yet agreement on specific emission reduction targets. The draft states that emissions should be halved worldwide by 2050 compared to 1990 levels, but it also suggests at least 80 and 95 percent reductions by that year as possible alternative options. The other emission target is between 75-85 percent. All these figures are still in bracket and currently being negotiated.

On the call by AOSIS for global warming to kept below 1.5 degrees Celsius, the draft text mentions it must not exceed either 1.5 or 2 degrees (both in brackets).

Most Heads of the State will arrive in Copenhagen by the middle of next week with the hope that negotiators will come up with an agreement ready to be initialed.

Satire and smiles help get climate change message across

Geoffrey Smith and Lisa Williams-Lahari
Saturday 12 December 2009--COPENHAGEN: COP15 might be a serious affair but for career cartoonist Erik Petri, there is another way of getting all the serious messages across.  Every morning,  Petri puts his mind into overdrive as he sums up the key highlights of the last 24 hours through his sketches which could range from anything from the intense lobbying of the G77 or the odds faced by other groupings like AOSIS.  For Petri, the cartoons are aimed at making people laugh and hopefully at the end of that ponder the satirically serious message behind it all.  "A lot of times it is easier to discuss from an image than just with words," says Petri, "it's a lot easier when you have symbols that you could talk from - so hopefully people will be able to see the satirical approach.  They will laugh first but then the seriousness of the message will get to them afterwards - and they will act on it. That's my hope anyway.--ENDS.