Sunday 28 November 2010

Cook Islands, a valuable member in the world negotiations against climate change

Members of the Cook Islands delegation

27 November, Cancun, Mexico - The Cook Islands are committed to the climate change cause.  The nation of 15 small islands is a valuable member of the Pacific wide team that works as one in the fight for an agreement crucial to our survival. As time passes and science gives weight to the impacts of climate change - the need for an agreement grows stronger each day.

Over the next two weeks in Cancun, Mexico the world comes together, yet again, at the 16th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework for the Convention on Climate Change (COP16).

While expectations are being downplayed at this meeting, the Cook Islands are still working towards an agreement, after all the nation is amongst the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change but is one of the nations that contributes least to this global problem.

"I think they are trying to downplay the ambitions of this meeting, but for the Cook Islands it's important that we keep the pressure on to try and come to some sort of agreement. I mean, we can’t just keep deferring the hard decisions, we've got to make a decision and set a deadline for this process," said Myra Patai the  Director, International Organizations & Treaties, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration - the head of the Cook Islands delegation.

The Cook Islands have been actively engaged in the climate change negotiations which have been held more regularly after the formation of the ‘Bali Roadmap’ at the 13th Conference of the Parties two years ago. They have in their team experienced local negotiators who are tasked with leading different working groups for the Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS) in addressing the range of agenda items.

“For the Cook Islands we have two key issues; to address problems of rising Greenhouse gas emissions and impacts on us and we’re hoping to put in place an agreement that will capture those countries that aren’t part of the climate change agreement process. We’d also like to see a second commitment period for parties under the Kyoto protocol is established.”

Here at the climate change meetings, it is often commented upon by fellow Pacific delegates that the Cook Islands country team is largely made up of the female gender, however Patai says the strength of their team is more that it reflects the diverse interests from the island nation as the country battles climate change together. In all there are eight delegates in the Cook Islands official team who stem from different government ministries, as well as nongovernmental organisations.

“I think this really reflects what we do back home we have set up a climate change country team which comprises of almost all of government ministries as well as traditional leaders, business people and NGO’s. I think Government understands that to address climate change effectively requires a comprehensive response, that government cannot tackle climate change on its own.”

Pacific prepared for climate talks in Cancun

Cancun, Mexico, 27 November - The Pacific region is preparing their stance in cooperation with all Small Island States at the climate change negotiations in Cancun, Mexico next week. While the possibility of a new global agreement on climate change is being downplayed, it has not dampened the efforts of the Pacific as they ready themselves for the final round of negotiations for 2010. There is strong representation from the Pacific region in Cancun with Heads of State, Environment Ministers and Ambassadors of the Pacific in attendance with their officials.

The 16th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework for the Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP 16) is bringing the World together for two weeks of climate change negotiations. The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) coordinated a meeting of the Pacific islands countries to assist them in preparing for the two weeks of intense discussions.

“I think judging from the dialogue in the Pacific meeting there is a strong desire to see some tangible outcomes from Cancun,” stated SPREP’s climate change adviser Mr. Espen Ronneberg.

“Of course expectations have been downplayed by the host and a number of other influential countries but we’ll have to work through all the issues and see how we can best rescue something that can be of benefit to the region.”

During the preparatory meeting the Pacific delegates discussed issues on the agenda, exchanging views and information, allowing for frank talks before attending the formal meetings. One of the main issues of concern that was discussed extensively by the Pacific region as they prepared for the coming weeks is that of financing.

“We do need to see new and additional resources being made available. The existing funds and so forth that are available to the countries are viewed by many as inadequate and there is so much complexity in accessing the funds. We need new funds and funding modalities that are easier for our countries to take advantage of.”

The final day of the preparatory meeting allowed for negotiations training for the Pacific Island delegates which were coordinated by the highly experienced Tuvalu negotiator, Mr. Ian Fry. His training programme stages a practical exercise to strengthen negotiation skills and for this particular session of the Pacific the activity focussed on the adaptation agenda and the negotiations text now at the table.

“This was a very successful day of negotiations training, these exercises are very helpful, and it is good to have a refresher even for our more experienced negotiators as well just to take a step back and see the negotiations from the perspective of other countries. It is daunting for the new people for whom this is their first COP, and the negotiations training exercise is very valuable in preparing them for the weeks to come.”

The Pacific preparatory meeting was held in Cancun from 21 – 23 November, while the formal Cancun COP will be held from 29 November to 11 December.