Monday 14 December 2009

President of COP uses her privileged powers to try and move negotiations

Makereta Komai, PACNEWS, Climate Pasifika
Copenhagen, 14 December -The President of COP15 has elected two co-chairs – one each from Germany and Indonesia to try and address major issues requiring political guidance.

These are issues dealing with the controversial long term ambitious global emissions reduction and enhanced action on mitigation and its associated means of implementation.

The United States and other Annex 1 countries have refused to move on the draft text, which demands legally binding mitigation commitments only from developed countries.

COP15 chair, Connie Hedegraad of Denmark called for informal consultations today after there was no movement on the issue of mitigation during the first informal rounds of negotiations on the draft text proposed the chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long Term Co-operative Action (AWG-LCA), Michael Zammit Cutajar.

G77 and China were not very convinced with the President’s initiative to seek solutions through informal consultations.

“We were diverted by processes beyond our control, said Bernarditas Muller of Philippines, one of the official spokesperson for the G77 & China group.

“Our fear is that for the first time in the UN processes that ministers are doing the negotiations. A very vocal Ms Muller said her group has been pressured into ‘moving to the LCA processes, bypassing the Kyoto Protocol.’

We are worried that the presidency has been holding consultation in small group to try and move the negotiation process forward instead of consulting with all the parties.

“The pressure has been to divide developed and developing countries.

“They want to fast track us into the LCA process because all of it is self financing, the commercialisation of new technology and off course the push for mitigation by developing countries, said Ms Muller.

The COP chair wants political solutions to paragraph 3 & 4 and 11-19 of the AWG-LCA draft text, covering appropriate national mitigation commitments of developed countries.  Currently, figures in the text are shown  on 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.

Paragraphs 20-25 looks at how developed countries record and implement mitigation actions

Developed countries are also concerned with paragraphs 5 & 39 on long term financing for adaptation and mitigation.  Its been whispered around the negotiation corridors that the Presidency wants to further reduce the seven page draft text to two pages, which may form the core of the new global agreement to combat climate change beyond 2012.

Disasters threaten livelihoods of Pacific islanders

Cherelle Jackson, Environment Weekly, Climate Pasifika: Photo by Cherelle Jackson

Copenhagen, 14 December - Over three quarters of deaths in 2009 were due to natural disasters, specifically
extreme weather events.

As the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen continues, alarming figures were released Belgian WHO collaborating Center for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED).  The 2009 figures which cover the period from 1 January to November 2009 noted that Out of the 245 disasters in 2009, 224 were weather related.

According to CRED this accounts for 55 million people out of 58 million people affected, 7000 out of 8900 of those killed, and US$15 billion out of the US$19 billion in economic damages.

“The extreme weather event figures are probably underestimated as drought impacts are not easily detected in disaster statistics” said Professor Debarati Guha Sapir (above left), Director of CRED in a press conference today in Copenhagen.

Figures for the Pacific were not specified by CRED however Sapir told Environment Weekly that the small islands in the region stand to lose more than lives.

"Natural disasters in fact have the tremendously impact on very very small islands or very small communities, partly because most of the events that occur there, can wipe out the majority of the Gross Domestic Product of a country. The proportion of the housing that can get destroyed can be up to 50 to 60 percent of the entire civilian housing so small islands are in an extremely, extremely vulnerable situation and as it is stands, in the South Pacific they are in cyclone parts all the times."

In Samoa alone a total of 439 people died as a result of natural disasters since 1968.

The number of deaths as a result of weather related disasters in Samoa amount to 291 with the highest deaths recorded in the 1964 tropical storm which killed 250 people.

Ms. Margareta Wahlström, the United Nations Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction says the numbers could get worse.

“Statistics this year show lower figures compared to previous years, which is a good news for people and countries, however extreme weather disasters remain top of the list and will continue to affect more people in the future as more than half of the world's population highly exposed is living in coastal regions” said Wahlström.

Preparedness is the key according to CRED Director Sapir.

"For islands such as those in the South Pacific who are located in the cyclone region, preparedness should be integrated into national policies, as this is of utmost importance."

Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization announced the year 2009 among the top 10 warmest years on record since the beginning of instrumental climate records in 1850.
He underlined the importance of early warning systems, and seasonal climate forecasts to manage risks and to better prepare vulnerable populations to cope with more extreme events.

“Progress in monitoring, forecasting and warnings of climate-related hazards, linked to effective emergency preparedness and response on the ground, saves lives. In the last five decades, globally, while the numbers of disasters and related economic losses have increased between 10 and 50 times, the reported loss of life has dramatically been reduced by a factor of 10. Climate forecasting and information allows us to plan our communities better so as to reduce the risk of disaster when extreme weather strikes. This can help save livelihoods through better planning in health, agriculture, insurance and water resource management” said

Benefits of investments in tropical cyclone early warning systems were demonstrated in Cuba in 2008, when the country was hit by five successive hurricanes, but only 7 people were reported dead.

In Bangladesh, nearly 3500 lives were lost during super cyclone Sidr in November 2007, compared to two other events in 1970 and 1991 which respectively claimed over 300,000 and 191,000.

Those examples are however still rare.

In Samoa out of 5275 affected by the tsunami on the 29th of September 2009, a total of 148 were killed, a percentage that is very high considering the number of people affected.

A survey conducted by WMO in 2006 revealed that over 60% of the WMO’s 189 Members are not adequately equipped with the technical capacities to warn populations against hazards, particularly in most vulnerable countries. WMO says that these capacities need to be developed.

In addition UNISDR recommends that climate information, forecasts and projection combined with operational and strategic planning in various sectors can prevent widespread damage.  The organisation indicates that the combination of all those factors can save livelihoods and reduce economic risks associated with hazards in many sectors such as agriculture, water resource management, health and insurance.

Trends in extreme events and capacities to manage disaster risks are currently being assessed as part of a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  The report according to the IPCC will look into managing the risk of extreme events and disasters to advance climate change adaptation.

No plan B for 1.5 and 350ppm, says AOSIS chair

Lisa Williams-Lahari and Geoffrey Smith, Climate Pacific media team
Monday 14 December 2009, COPENHAGEN--AOSIS Chair Dessima Williams of Grenada came out of the UNDP-AOSIS briefing this morning stressing that there is no Plan B, no shifting of the AOSIS position on 1.5 degrees and 350 parts per million, and no departing from the call for a legally binding convention to rest the targets in, if and when leaders sign the dotted line here at COP15 in a few days time.

AOSIS CHAIR:We have been saying --which is I think the UNDP position-- that we cannot have a climate change outcome that is not a development outcome. We need ambitious emission reduction targets that will create for us the space of safety and survivability to pursue development so I think what we heard in the encounter with the Adminstrator of UNDP was very welcome.She understands that and she has an excellent team worldwide who are on the ground implementing development and also responding to the disasters that come out of the climate change dilemma.
LWL: There's also some question coming up in the discussions Ambassador over what the plan B might be--

AOSIS CHAIR: No, we don't have a plan B. We do not have a plan B. Our leaders might but we as negotiators and diplomats don't. We have been sent here to negotiate the position of the heads of government who came to New York on September 21, in which their declaration called for an ambitious legally binding document. AOSIS has put such a proposal on the table. Africa, the LDCs, other countries are doing similarly, and the developing countries need and want a legally binding outcome. If we don't have a new commitment on the Kyoto Protocol then we haven't really had a successful COP15. That is important to us and we are negotiating on that basis.

CAN support AOSIS

Rachna Lal, USP Journalism, Climate Pasifika

Copenhagen, 14 December - It is appreciated by Climate Action Network (CAN) International that most vulnerable countries suffering from climate change impacts have been working towards a legally binding agreement during the COP15.

Keya Chatterjee (pictured left) from WWF said the declaration of the legal treaty by Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS) last week was a positive step for those who have their survival at stake.

“The step by AOSIS showed their determination to protect their people,” she said.

“We had many impressive announcements coming from countries before the meeting started and after a bumpy week, I am looking forward to leadership from the Head of states to work out a deal.”

Marcelo Furtado, a representative from Greenpeace during the CAN negotiations assessment brief expressed his concerns that the decision made in Copenhagen would be a life and death situation for some countries.

“There is no time for leaders to walk in here without responsibility, without vision and without leadership.  We are talking about a moment in history where we need action,” he said.

Furtado believe that reasons such as a country’s economy would suffer or industries would suffer cannot be prioritized over the lives of the most vulnerable people.

“With the negotiations ending on Tuesday and the arrival of heads of states by Wednesday, the onus is now on the political leaders to make the final decision on the outcome of the conference,” said Alden Meyer from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Hopes are high amongst these people for not only a legal but a responsible outcome as well from the COP15 as it reaches towards the Ministerial discussions soon. 

Health should be referenced strongly in final COP 15 text

Ruci Mafi, SPC, Climate Pasifika

Copenhagen, 14 December - The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to retain and strengthen references to health in the final text of its agreement.

This call has been welcomed by some Pacific island leaders present at the COP 15 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Secretary to the President of the Republic of Kiribati, Betarim Rimon said health was second to survival and must be considered in its entirety when dealing with climate change.

Mr Rimon said health issues continue to be challenges in the Pacific and having these recognized within the UNFCCC COP 15 final text will be an achievement.

In its proposal, WHO said that “the negotiating drafts take the positive opportunity to gain additional support and to greatly offset the costs of mitigation efforts, by promoting mitigation measures that can achieve co-health benefits.”

WHO also stated in its proposal that the serious adverse effects of climate change, notably those on crop [food] production systems, fisheries and food security, on poverty reduction, water resources,  human health and welfare, including housing and infrastructure, on the composition, resilience and productivity of natural and managed ecosystems, including marine and coastal ecosystems, on the operation of socio-economic systems and on transboundary migration levels, as well as insufficient access to a global atmospheric resource and the related historical ecological debt generated by the cumulative GHG emissions, are becoming a major obstacle to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.

The proposal wants the concept of "right to live well" emphasized adding the right to health as defined by the WHO.

“Noting that a shared vision for long-term cooperative action should take account not only of the rights of human beings, but also of the rights of Mother Earth and all its natural beings as the adverse effects of climate change also have a range of direct and indirect implications for the full and effective enjoyment of human right,  including the right to sustainable development, self determination, statehood, life, the right of people not to be deprived of their own means of subsistence, the right to water, the right to health  and the right to live well and are increasingly posing a risk to security and the survival, sovereignty and territorial integrity of states,” the WHO proposal said.

Talks suspended, Africa pushes for Kyoto Protocol discussion

Makereta Komai, PACNEWS, Climate Pasifika

The main session of UN climate talks in Copenhagen was again stalled today (Monday 14 December) after African nations accused rich countries of trying to kill the existing U.N. Kyoto Protocol.

“This is a walk-out over process and form, not a walkout over substance, and that's regrettable,” Australian Climate Change Minister Penny Wong told Reuters.

But Oxfam New Zealand director, Barry Coates disagrees with Penny Wong saying the African nations have a valid point.

"The problem from the African group is that the direction the talks are taking appears to show there is going to be a single track agreement without any assurances that there will be a compliance mechanism at the end of the day.

Mr Coates said the concern many developing and small island states are voicing is that the U.S and others have gone on the record saying they don’t want a compliance mechanism.

"Africa wants discussion first on the Kyoto Protocol but surprisingly Australia, Japan and Sweden on behalf of the European Union opposed Africa ’s position, said Mr Coates.

He said what happened today is being pushed by many as saying that Africa is trying to stall the talks.

“In reality, the Danish government and Annex 1 countries are sabotaging the negotiations, according to Oxfam NZ director.

“What appears to be happening here is that the Bali Plan of Action, which recommends a two track approach, seems to have been tossed aside.

Oxfam and other international non governmental organisations maintain their support for the position of Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) for a two track legally binding agreement, as proposed in the Bali Plan of Action.

“We know that AOSIS negotiators are coming under huge pressure for their strong and courageous position and we support them. At the weekend we had a big meeting of all NGOs and I made an intervention on behalf of AOSIS, which received a lot of applause.”

Friends of the Earth International also threw their support behind Africa ’s protest today.

“We support African countries demands for Kyoto targets and mandatory emissions reductions for rich countries. We denounce the dirty negotiating tactics of rich countries which are trying to change the rules and tilt them in their own favour.

“The Danish presidency has proposed informal consultations, which appeared to be an attempt to collapse two separate negotiating tracks in Copenhagen and thereby ‘abolish’ the Kyoto Protocol. This would allow rich countries to dodge their emissions reductions obligations, said Elizabeth Bast of Friends of the Earth International.

Talks failed to start as planned at 1030 GMT due to the African protest. The session was to seek ways to end deadlock on core issues, four days before about 110 world leaders arrive in Copenhagen to sign a new global climate change deal.

At a press briefing, UN’s climate chief Yvo de Boer said the Presidency of the conference would have informal talks with the negotiating parties in the early afternoon and that the talks would focus on the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol.

“The vast majority [of countries] want to see a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol,” Yvo de Boer said. “This is not just an African concern.”

Asked whether he had heard of any countries indicating that they might boycott the conference, Yvo de Boer answered:

“I am not aware of any country threatening to block anything.”

Under the Kyoto Protocol, 40 industrialised countries are legally obliged to cut emission, mainly from burning fossil fuel, by at least 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Kiribati - the human face of climate change

Copenhagen: 14 December 2009 --- Kiribati President Anote Tong says history has seen nations lose their sovereignty and human rights through warfare and actions of aggressive neighbours - the effects of climate change will be just the same as if Kiribati had been attacked by a very hostile and deadly enemy.

"The issue of climate change is the greatest moral challenge of the 21st century," says the President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, who arrives in Copenhagen on 15 December. 

"The world can no longer afford the consequences of inaction    Low-lying states like Kiribati are already the human face of climate change.  

"We are among the most vulnerable of the vulnerable.   Even a marginal increase in sea levels will be disastrous for our country's future. 

"Only last week we experienced damaging storm surges and the destruction of sea walls.   Ever worsening scientific forecasts bring us little comfort - we directly experience higher tides and more frequent storms which bring salt water intrusion and coastal flooding.  We have long periods of drought, an endangered supply of fresh water, and bleaching of the coral reefs that cradle our islands. 

“Increased flooding has already forced some of our villagers to move inland – but this is a short trip, because our islands are so narrow - there is no place to go.  If we keep moving back we fall into the sea.”

"These countries are like the canary in the coal mine in terms of the dramatic impact of climate change on a whole civilization of people,” says Harvard University biological oceanographer James J. McCarthy. “They didn't cause the problem, but they are among the first to feel it.”

Spread over about 3.5 million square kilometres in the Central Pacific. the Republic of Kiribati (pronounced "Kiribas") lies midway between Hawaii and Fiji.  Formerly the Gilbert Islands under British colonial rule, its three major island groups are home to 100,000 people.  

Classified by the United Nations as “a least developed country”, the economic development of Kiribati is severely constrained by its dispersed and isolated atoll geography and narrow resource base.

"We find it very disturbing to hear international commentators speak of our country and its continued welfare as being an issue of "collateral damage" says the President.   

"Climate Change is a deeply human issue – it is about the rights of a people to enjoy their sovereignty, their dignity, their lifestyle and their culture.  It also calls into question the effectiveness of our international organizations to act on behalf of all members.”

 "If we can mobilize trillions of dollars to address the challenges to the global economy, then we are capable of taking the actions necessary to deal with the challenges of the global environment.  

"We are a proud people" says the President.  "We do not come to Copenhagen as beggars – that is not our way. But we cannot face this huge challenge without international support – both practical and moral.  

"In Kiribati, the Maldives, Tuvalu and the Marshalls, whole communities face real danger – their survival is at stake - our own survival is at stake as a people, as a unique and vibrant culture and as a sovereign nation.  

"To turn your back and watch your neighbour go down when you could have done something - I think that’s immoral, and calls into question our humanity, and the way we treat each other as members of the human family.

"Along with our endangered partners we call upon all world leaders to act with humanity and without delay, we call on the world media to help raise our voice, and we call on all citizens of the planet  to address with real compassion, commitment and urgency the critical issues we, the most vulnerable, are facing.”

Press Statement from the Office of the President of the Government of Kiribati

Words from a Pacific journalist who took part in the protest march in Sweden

Matelita Ragogo, Freelance journalist, Climate Pasifika
(Photos by Matelita)

Copenhagen 14 December - As our Oceania people prepared for Sunday last weekend, thousands took to the streets of Copenhagen on their behalf, pressuring decision-makers to stop treating the planet as a business interest, to start looking at climate change as a moral issue.

The thousands marched for the planet and humanity who will be equally affected by the manifestations of global warming damage but in calling for a legally-binding agreement, those who braved the cold Scandinavian cold demanded the urgency a response to Pacific island communities’ required.

Walking the winding six kilometres aptly demonstrated that those who were there chose to be there to emphasise their belief that while the planet is very sick, leaders had ways of addressing it, thanks to science finally waking up to the realities of climate change, if they’d just stopped talking and started walking the talk.

The indigenous group lead the march. It did appear though that the indigenous population of the world comprised South American groups as they had sizeable delegation here. But I just couldn’t help imagining Fijian meke performers for instance prancing about or Tongan women with their ever-so graceful tau’olunga moves or i-Kiribati group garbed in their traditional: even if it was only for sometime before the cold would have definitely called for boots and coats.

I wished for just a slice of Pagopago’s Festival of Arts for it would have been an invaluable show of what Pacific delegates are arguing here: that for us, it is not merely about rising sea-levels and inundation of atolls but as well, it is about the potential loss of culture that is rooted deeply into our definition of ‘land’ – land and ocean. One is comforted though by the fact that the Pacific island nations representatives are making waves where it matters – in plenary.

There was no shortage of placards pushing for equity and sincerity in humanity’s response to climate change – some read: ‘Blah Blah Blah...Action’ and/or ‘Change the politics, not the climate’ and/or a simple ‘CUT’. A personal favourite was ‘Stop Co2onisation’ in reference to the much touted REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) mitigation programme that indigenous populations argue is inhumane for those who live close to or in forests.

The diversity of this great big mass of people was mind-boggling, chants in different languages and just witnessing the different peoples that make up humanity was a feast for sore eyes. The police estimated 25,000 people.

Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu handed over the Countdown to Co2penhagen with 500,000 signatures to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary Yvo de Boer.

Tutu then simply said to the absolute delight of the crowd: “Hello rich countries, wake up! It’s cheap to finance climate debt. 150 billion dollars a year would do it.” Tutu asked for a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050. Both de Boer and COP president Connie Hedegaard were also present. Hedegaard described the march as another demonstration that would make “negotiators aware of the high price of not reaching an agreement”.

Note: People took to the streets in Denmark and Sweden for a 6 km protest march calling for urgent action on climate change over the weekend - Saturday 12 December the march took place in Copenhagen with approx 50,000 people.  The second march took place on Sunday in Malmo, Sweden - Reporter Matelita Ragogo took part in the march on Sunday.

Experts call for oceans to be included in Copenhagen agreement

Ocean experts from around the world have called for the inclusion of oceans inside the text of any agreement that leaders come up with at the UN Climate Talks in Copenhagen.  While officials continue to grapple with the final agreement - which has been dominated by varying emissions level and the legality issues, the impact of greenhouse gases and emissions on the world's oceans has been highlighted as one of the hidden stories of climate change.

Although rising sea levels and the increase in storm intensities is well known, the other impacts of climate change such as acidification have not been prominent.

With oceans absorbing up to 50 percent of carbon dioxide emissions for the past 200 years, this has made the world's seas more acidic and is affecting fish stocks.

The move to get oceans into the UN negotiations text is backed by a number of countries including the coalition members of the Coral Triangle Initiative including Solomon Islands.

"We will push for oceans to be part of the climate change initiative, here at cant address climate change and not deal with oceans," says Solomon Islands Environment Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo.

For Solomon Islands the impact of ocean acidification will also be economic.

''Fishing is one of our main income earners, this will affect our economy as well those of distant fishing nations.''

The other members of the Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) are Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste from the region and Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia.

The group's leader Indonesia says time is running out and oceans need to be made a focal point of the UNFCCC.

"We all need to build on the framework and take action now," says Indonesia's Maritime and Fisheries Minister Dr Fadal Muhammad.

The members of CTI were part of the Oceans Day event hosted by the European Environmental Agency, with the aim of bringing issue of oceans to the forefront of talks at Copenhagen.

The United Kingdom's secretary of state Hilary Benn acknowledged that developed countries have benefited  from releasing carbon through industrialization now developing countries simply want the same for their people.

The hard task now is to find a middle ground, acceptable to everyone as negotiations continue.

"We have 192 countries, and one world, we have on week left to get it right,'' says Benn.

YourVoices@COP15-- Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator

Lisa Williams Lahari, Freelance reporter, Climate Pasifika team.

Copenhagen, 14 December - Climate Pasifika Reporter Lisa Williams Lahari spent time with the UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark this morning - we bring you the transcript and the video.

LWL: UNDP is embedded in Pacific development  - we all want to know - what's your position on 1.5 and 350?   
Clark: We're a multilateral organisation so we are not negotiating but we are here to support our friends to get the best deal they can because its a development issue and that's our position. It's a development issue.
LWL: But whatever comes out of COP is going to affect the Pacific; whatever comes out of here UNDP has to live with in it's Pacific work.
Clark: Absolutely. That's why we're saying we're here to step up efforts, so if we can get this fast-track funding moving...there's so much to do, so much to do.

LWL:  Pushing for a legally binding agreement or just having to live with whatever comes out of COP?
Clark: I think they're still a long way from a legally binding text - that's the problem. But there has to be a legally binding text. Whether it's here or at some point, it can't just drift on...really I think the critical thing is if the legally binding text isn't completed til next year the money on the fast track still has to come...
LWL: You've said that this is an extraordinarily serious development issue. What's the extraordinary approach thats going to be needed to get the answers?
Clark: There has to be obviously radical action in industrialised countries to get emissions down, that's number one and secondly the cash has to flow to help developing countried to adapt and mitigate ...It's not rocket science aye."

Cyclone Prevents Fiji’s Prime Minister from Attending COP 15

Ruci Mafi,  SPC, Climate Pasifika

Copenhagen,  14 December - Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama will not attend the 15th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen, Denmark as planned. 

His absence is due to the current strike Cyclone Mick has made to the Fiji Islands in the Pacific.

“The Prime Minister felt that the nation needed him back home at this trying time as our people brace themselves to rebuild their lives after the devastations made by Cyclone Mick,” said Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, Fiji’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. 

Schools and government offices have been closed while communication infrastructure disrupted to the Pacific island nation as negotiators battle to settle for a better deal in Denmark.

“The communication was made to us this morning that our Prime Minister will not be able to attend the high level ministerial meeting to endorse the final outcomes of COP 15,” Ratu Inoke said.

The cyclone has brought closer to the Fiji delegation the realities of dealing with climate change issues and in coming up with a robust deal that will look at issues like rebuilding nations and rehabilitation processes after this.

“The Meteorological Department is predicting another nine cyclones in the coming year and the implications on food and water security to countries like Fiji in the Pacific is enormous. And the burden on our negotiators is now far greater given the increased frequency and severity of natural disasters like Cyclone Mick,” Ratu Inoke said. 

People on the main island of Viti Levu are bracing for the worst as they are in the direct path of cyclone.  

“Our people on the main island which is home to the capital city of Suva and home to over 200,000 people have secured their property, stocked food and emergency supplies while those living in low lying areas that are prone to floods have moved to higher grounds,” Ratu Inoke said.

The ministry of agriculture has issued an advisory to stakeholders particularly to farmers in the  sector to work at minimizing long lasting damage to their crops and livestock.

Logistical nightmare at COP15

Makereta Komai, PACNEWS, Climate Pasifika (photo: Nanette Woonton)  
Copenhagen 14 December - Just over 45, 200 delegates and observers have registered for the international climate change meeting in Copenhagen, which has now entered day eight.  This amount is almost 30,000 more than what Bella Centre can accommodate. The centre has the maximum capacity of only  15,000.   The United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat has apologised for what appears to the logistical breakdown.  
“I know this is disappointing but we must cut down on the numbers to maintain the functionality of the meeting, said an executive of the UNFCCC.

“We did not expect this avalanche of participants.

“This morning, thousands of people queued in the long line outside the conference centre, some waiting in line for over two hours.  The UN and the Danish government have now devised a system to monitor access into the conference venue.

“Of the 22,747 registered observers, a big number of which are non governmental organisations, we will now only allow 1,000 of their representatives to attend the meetings on a daily basis.

“The quota per NGO’s will be on a rotating basis, said the UNFCCC executive. As of today, Monday (14 December), a total of 45,215 have been registered and accredited to attend COP15.

Of this number, 11,500 are part delegates, over 22,700 are observers (including NGOs), 3,487 media and 2,400 technical, secretariat and security personnel.

“This is clearly overwhelming for Bella Centre.”

IPCC warns, biodiversity will be hard hit

Cherelle Jackson, Environment Weekly, Climate Pasifika (Image left - Copyright Stuart Chape)

Copenhagen, 13 December - Biodiversity or the diversity of plant and animal life within the Pacific region will be hard hit if temperatures keep rising in the next 30 years. According to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) biodiversity in vulnerable areas of the world are a cause for great concern if temperatures are not controlled or reversed soon.

Dr. Christopher Field (pictured below right, Photo by Cherelle Jackson), IPCC Vice Chair of Working Group II says: "Biological biodiversity is very clearly very sensitive to climate change, with projected loss of the biodiversity scaling with the levels of impact going from a few percent from the lower warming rankings we are talking about up to as much as 30 or more percent in key areas if warming goes on the trajectories at the high end at the rates that IPCC considered."

Field believes that vulnerable areas such as the Pacific will again bear the brunt of the impact.

"It is very important to remember that vulnerability is not uniformly distributed. The level of impact scales with the levels of emmissions," he said.

In a report on the Physical Science Basis of climate change IPCC states: "For increases in global average temperature exceeding 1.5 to 2.5°C, there are projected to be major changes in ecosystem structure and function, species’ ecological interactions and shifts in species’ geographical ranges, with predominantly negative consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem goods and services."

A Pacific climate expert agrees.

According to Climate Change Advisor for the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) biodiversity is an important area that needs to be considered.

Espen Ronneberg says: "The impacts of climate change on biodiversity are very well known. We have a number of early studies in the region that clearly indicate strong impacts on biodiversity in the region, both marine and terrestial. Obviously we need to take that into account."

He says there are efforts to find the relationship between the two.

"We are looking at ways to link biodiversity conservation with mitigation and adaptation. It becomes more complicated though because you are taking a more holistic approach to the problem and therefore it becomes a much bigger exercise than simply looking at straight climate change or straight conservation," Ronneberg said.

According to a Climate Change and Biodiversity (CCBM) assessment in Melanesian countries, the risks are high for the species in that region. The report indicates that Melanesia ’s terrestrial animal and plant species are especially vulnerable to climate change because of high levels of endemicity in the region.

Species that are most threatened by climate change, those found near the tree line at higher elevations, those found in isolated or outlying mountain ranges, small island mammals and larger mammals.

According to the CCBM Assesment it is possible that species could shift their ranges along both latitudinal and elevational gradients causing changes to ecological interactions such as changes in inter-species competition and predation, seeding and fruiting patterns.

Dr. Geoffery Hope a former Professor at the Climate Change Institute in Australia, pointed out that species and ecosystems have adapted to past climate changes. However, he underscores in CCBM that during those past periods of climate change the ecosystems most at risk were healthier than they currently are.

"In today’s world most ecosystems are already under pressure from other human-based threats such as over-hunting, over-fishing, and forest cover changes. The effects of climate change add yet one more stress factor to these ecosystems, and in some cases may become, the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity, the SPREP Council have endorsed 209 to be the Pacific Year of Biodiversity in partnership with the international campaign.

Long queues waiting hours in cold to enter COP 15 Bella Centre

Makereta Komai, PACNEWS, Climate Pasifka

Copenhagen, 14 December - Thousands of people were held up in the cold outside Bella Centre, the venue of COP15, as security begins to tighten around the conference venue, in anticipation of the arrival of world leaders to Copenhagen. Amongst those in the long queue was Climate Pasifika journalist, Makereta Komai, who took some pictures of the huge crowd. Some of the people interviewed complained waiting in line for more than two hours, especially those arriving for registration. 

Danish and UN Security officials are asking delegates to arrive early to avoid any delays to their meetings. From today, security officials will monitor access level, which is limited to 15,000 per day for the rest of the week.

Denmark prepares to welcome Obama

Lisa Williams-Lahari, Climate Pasifika media
Sunday 14 December 2009, COPENHAGEN-- The impending visit of American President Barrack Obama (right) has created a hype of its own in addition to meeting the needs of an already comfortably full COP venue work. With numbers of government delegations expected to spike as leaders arrive into the next few days, the behind the scenes work is expected to step up in presence, with the security price tag alone estimated to be at least 100million USD. Much as Pacific leaders would like to claim a special audience with the Hawaii-born President, there's no sign of that happening or even any information on whether such a meeting has been requested.  

Back in  logistics, team members expect the dimensions of security will go smoothly at least, in the Bella Centre. "Yes of course it creates an interesting hype when the head of the most powerful nation in the world comes to Denmark. We have hosted US presidents before so it's an enormous task, but it's doable," says Logistics Chief Svend Olling.

The US will be providing their own security detail in cooperation with the Denmark Security and Intelligence services.  But Olling says apart from some separate entrance and exit areas for world leaders, the impact on those inside the Bella Centre is going to be dwarfed by comparison with those outside the COP15 venue. 

The capacity of the international airport is limited and with the arrival of world leaders as well as commercial flights, air traffic controllers will be dealing with 100 or more planes in a time-window of a few hours. 

"That's an enormous pressure on the airport," says Olling, who says linked to the air traffic, roads will also feel the increased VIP landings.

" We are talking about 100-120 motorcades between the hotels and airport, so traffic will be congested." 

The last time a US President visited COP was in Montreal in 2005, when the logistics work around former President Clinton and his travelling entourage of 40-plus security staff put the venue and any public transport links in the vicinity into lockdown.

Given this COP will welcome a President in office, and the historic manner in which Obama came into power; it's likely the security, crowds, and media hordes following his every move will ensure that disruptions to public transportation may be the closest many Danes and their COP15 guests come to Obama's attendance without switching on the TV or going online.

INsideINsights: Rachna Lal Climate Pasifika Team Member

Copenhagen, Denmark 14 December - Rachna Lal a senior journalism student at the University of the South Pacific is a member of the SPREP Climate Pasifika team, currently in Copenhagen, Denmark assisting with communications and media work for AOSIS and the Pacifici islands nations.  Today she takes us INsideINsights, giving us her perspective of the conference.

More empathy, less guilt needed at COP15

TRANSCRIPT: "On the one hand it's great because I see a lot of very inspiring and intelligent people but it's also very hard because one of the things I am feeling is that we are missing the train and one of the things I think is very important is that we get the climate empathy we need: since he (her son Francis) was born I was asked frequently by people "aren't you feeling what you are doing now more deeply than before?" I was really astonished about it because for me the empathy with mothers in Bangladesh or your country does not  depend on being a mother myself-- and we need to act for the outcomes of this conference based on this empathy."-- Anja Kohne

Lisa Williams Lahari, Climate Pasifika media - photo and filming by Lisa Williams Lahari

Monday, 14 December 2009, COPENHAGEN--Mothers of the world will find they have a sister in Anja Kohne, (above)  and it's a timely hat for the longtime European environmental activist to wear. Having recently given birth to son Francis, she is attending COP15 with him while on maternity leave. The symbolism of bringing the generation who will live with the decisions from the COP15 into the building is not lost on Kohne, she says perceptions of her activism have changed since she gave birth:

"Since he was born, I was asked by people "aren't you feeling what you are doing now more deeply than before?" I was really astonished about it because for me the empathy with mothers in Bangladesh or your country does not depend on being a mother myself-- and we need to act for the outcomes of this conference based on this empathy."

Kohne, a first class honours graduate student working on her PhD thesis on environmental policy integration in EU foreign policy, has 15 years behind her in governmental and non-government work. Enough years to convince this environmental policy consultant that the only way for the world to come to a common agreement is for the negotiators on all sides to ditch the guilt trips, acknowledge failure and responsibility, and have some compassion for each other's point of view. 

"We need to go into a state where we can take on responsibility without feeling guilty.  It needs to be a friendly confrontation."  

Confrontation is something COP meetings seem to have in abundance.  Whether you are doing it diplomatically in the plenary and working group negotiations, or loud and proud with the NGO activists staging events in the wings of the negotiations, the clamour is likely to heat up as December 18 nears.  And while the locking horns and colliding positions may be more tuneful to newshounds than mutual support and unison, there are also many examples of how North-South NGO activism and partnerships are stepping up last-chance messages to the COP leaders.

From acronyms like CAN (Climate Action Network) and WWF to an Australian youth coalition campaign called Project Survival, the indicators of that activism being successful -- or a failure, will come through in next week's decisions.  A 'People's Forum' on climate change this week in Copenhagen Central town has also attracted some 10,000 people and will deliver a declaration  to the COP15. 

For Kohne, NGO activism has a large role to play in ensuring governments in the developed nations allow space and input from civil society into the agenda setting.  Kohne's conviction that a global sense of citizenship is what is needed doesn't stop at climate change.  She says worry by developed nations over the economic pressures from constituents is creating a new 'economic racism' which is over riding the scientific proof that urgent and drastic action is needed to avoid the peak and tipping points predicted to take place.

"I was once on a panel with a multinational and he was telling me how he tells his children to do their homework because people in China and India are waiting to do theirs for the same jobs.  I would hope that by the time he (Francis) is 20, he's not thinking anymore about whether it's a German or an Indian or a Chinese he's competing for a job with, he's just doing some work anyway."

But the pace of climate change and its impacts even as the world's leaders meet is creating a new sense of urgency, a demand for a change of mindset and new modes of framing our worlds.  And the fact is that the world is changing so fast that we have to relearn our ways of thinking even as our children are struggling with new environmental realities.

Given that political leaders and their negotiaters are hardly going to start spouting Edward de Bono's six thinking hats method to mapping solutions through the minefield of agendas at COP15, it's easy to become cynical about calls for fresh vision and new thinking when old politics from older men are so much in play.

But Kohne shares two pinpoints of optimism amidst the fear that the 'Hope' in Copenhagen may come to nothing. 

"I have two main sources of hope," she says, "firstly, there is a shared anguish amongst people in developed countries who share the goals and the values of the people who are the so called most affected.  The problem at the moment is to pool the voices of the South with the voices of the North to really have the same perspective.  And I really really hope the G77 and China are going to stand together and are going to insist on deep emission cuts because that's what we need.  If they don't bring this meeting to a positive outcome I think we are all in a bad state."

I'm here to deliver says Solomon Islands minister

Evan Wasuka, ONE News TV, Climate Pacific media

Sunday 13 December 2009, COPENHAGEN--As negotiations at the UN Climate Change talks enter their most critical phase this week, the head of the Solomon Islands delegation says he will deliver on the expectations of his people. Hours after arriving on a long haul flight from Solomon Islands –
Environment and Conservation Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo told his delegation members that he would do all he can to ensure that the goals of the government are met in the final week of talks.

“I will deliver on what is expected of me and support our people,”

said Darcy. Solomon Islands have been affected by rising sea levels with communities in areas such as Walade, Fanalei and Ontong Java sitting on the frontline of climate change. Throughout the past week of negotiations Solomon Islands has given its backing to a proposal by the Alliance of Small Island States, AOSIS. The proposal includes a seven year extension to the Kyoto Protocol, the establishment of a new protocol agreement and the reduction of emissions to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees celsius.
AOSIS wants these to be underpinned in a legally binding agreement. On Sunday night the minister was hosted at a dinner by the Solomon delegation, as leaders from around the world converged on Copenhagen for the final stage of negotiations. The minister said he was supported by a well resourced delegation, which also happened to be the biggest sent by Solomon Islands to any climate change talks. Lilo said he was now stepping up to the plate to ensure that their good work was continued into this final week of talks. He said Solomon Islands would continue to enter the negotiations in good faith. “The theme of this for us is survival – because if we don’t reduce emissions some of our islands will be underwater.” Lilo says the negotiations to set up an agreement on climate change have come a longway since the Bali Accord in 2007 and he hoped that leaders would come up with a deal at Copenhagen. With several drafts agreements on the table leaders this week will now have to choose one or settle on a compromise.--ENDS

PNG rejects AOSIS text, holds out for 'non-paper'

Ahimsa Kibikibi,NBC, Climate Pasifika
Sunday 13 December 2009, COPENHAGEN--Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare arrrives to join climate change talks in Copenhagen this week and will present the country’s position to the umbrella group the Alliance of Small Islands States. 
PNG’s chief negotiator, Kevin Conrad bluntly stated in Saturday’s plenary session that PNG does not support the AOSIS proposed Copenhagen Protocol. His reaction caught AOSIS members off guard.
TRANSCRIPT: “There were some delegations that held out that there was a proposal by AOSIS, Papua New Guinea does not support this we believe there is a draft document, a non-paper that should be considered,” he said.  While delegates from other smaller Pacific Islands expressed anger and disappointment to this move, PNG delegate Joe Pokana agrees with Conrad, stating that the non-paper was already initially agreed upon, even though the new proposal builds on strenghtening of the Kyoto Protcol and the implementation of the Bali Action Plan.
Pokana said PNG is adamant that Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Deforestation or REDD, a scheme that will see forest owners be paid for avoiding deforestation, be officially recognised and endorsed in the text by the United Nations,
And that it will be up to Sir Michael, head of the PNG delegation to take this up this week during the high level segment, before the conclusion of talks on Friday the 18th of December. Meantime, AOSIS members are also awaiting an explanation for PNG's timing, because it had room to comment and make changes in the groups two daily meetings held in closed sessions throughout the week.TRANSCRIPT: “ We are depending on the Prime Minister now to deliver in the second week, our position and hopefully we get some attention and carry on what we are fighting for,” he said. It is not sure how AOSIS will deal with this situation or if members can withdraw or be expelled.--ENDS