Wednesday 8 December 2010

Slow pace of negotiations and inaction towards needs of vulnerable states highlighted by President Tong

By Makereta Komai, Climate Pasifika Media in Cancun, Mexico

President Anote Tong, Kiribati (midle) - chairing a UN side event in Cancun

08 DECEMBER 2010 CANCUN --- The slow pace of negotiations and the inaction of the international community towards the needs of small and vulnerable states at the frontline of climate change was highlighted by President Anote Tong in his statement to the High Level Segment of the climate change negotiations here in Cancun.

A year has passed since the generous pledges were made in Copenhagen and nothing has come to the frontline states, who are witnessing first-hand the devastation caused by climate change, said President Tong.

“There is also an unbalanced treatment of adaptation and mitigation in spite of our increasingly desperate situation.

“I, as other representatives of most vulnerable countries are disappointed and deeply concerned that as an international community we continue to focus on negotiating a detailed and comprehensive arrangement which would appease the views of the different groups involved in the process.

For the most vulnerable states, time is running out. We demand that attention be centred on the needs of those most vulnerable, said President Tong.

Last month, Kiribati hosted a climate change conference for Vulnerable States, coming out with a set of decisions known as the Ambo Declaration.

The Declaration highlights the need for special package that is translated into action in the immediate term to ensure the survival of the most vulnerable and the frontline states.

“We cannot continue with business as usual, we must listen and take heed of what is happening in these most vulnerable states in the frontline and act accordingly and with urgency. It must be taken as an early warning to the international community and a precursor for what could ultimately be the fate of humanity if further action is delayed, said President Tong.

And the world, he said was looking to Cancun for leadership.

“I would like to return to the people, in particular the young people in my country with some assurance that as leaders we have agreed here in Cancun on measures to guarantee their future. A commitment to mobilize adaptation funds such as those pledged at Copenhagen which are accessible for the special needs of small and most vulnerable island states.

President Tonga said scientific projections not only confirm that climate change is happening now but earlier scenarios of the severe adverse impacts, in particular sea level rise may have been too conservative.

“Our experience and those of other low-lying island countries in the Western Pacific certainly indicates that something is seriously wrong when rows of trees and coastlines are progressively being washed away with time.

Since his last statement at the Copenhagen climate change summit in Copenhagen in 2009, President Tong said, “Our communities have suffered considerably more damage”.

He said there are more severe erosion, loss of homes and infrastructure, contamination of water supplies and destruction of food crops, which ultimately leads to the demise of his home island.

Kiribati is an island nation located in the Central Pacific, comprising 32 atolls. It has a population of almost 100,000.

Building the Island Communications Toolkit

Sean Southey, Media Impact a partner of GLISPA
8 December, Cancun Mexico - The building of a biodiversity and climate change communications toolkit is now underway. It is planned the kit will address a number of different issues whether it be questions to reduce the impacts of climate change on island biodiversity, or to find ways to adapt to a changing climate. It is hoped that in this toolkit communities will be able to find answers from others, to share stories and to locate further tools that they can use to develop their capacity.

Stemming from an informal discussion between communicators in October, partners have come together again at the UN Climate change talks in Cancun to pave a way forward for the toolkit as partnership is one of the key factors of its production.

The toolkit will be a living project that includes an online component where stakeholders will contribute resources and engage in dialogues about the best ways to communicate and be educated on climate change and biodiversity. This component will be followed by other print products that will then be used in capacity development activities in 2011 and beyond.

David Ainsworth, CBD Secretariat
Under the Convention on Biological Diversity, the relationship between climate change and biodiversity is a key cross-cutting issue that is of particular relevance for island ecosystems.

With the financial support of the government of the Netherlands, and in partnership with the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA), the Commission on Education and Communication of IUCN and others, the Secretariat is developing this Communication, Education and Public Awareness (CEPA) toolkit on climate change and biodiversity specifically devoted to the needs of Small Islands Developing States.

The meeting of partners included those from UNESCO, PANOS Caribbean, Many Strong Voices, The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and others.

The next goal is to have a soft launch of a site by March with which island partners can begin to work with.

Denmark commits its fast start finance to develop renewable energy facility for AOSIS

By Makereta Komai, Climate Pasifika Media in Cancun, Mexico

8 DECEMBER 2010 CANCUN --- Promises of fast start finance has begun to flow to small islands developing states (SIDS) in the form of assistance for renewable energy and increased energy efficiency projects.

The government of Denmark has committed US$14.5 million of its US$55.3 million committed for 2010 towards renewable energy programmes in SIDS.

Danish special envoy for climate change, Lykke Fris said her government was delighted to finally make fast start finance available to countries that need to adapt and mitigate against the impacts of climate change.

Lykke fris, Denmark's climate change envoy
“It’s now time for little conversation and more action, said Fris.

As promised in Copenhagen in 2009, Denmark has pledged US$207 million for fast start finance for the period 2010-2012. Of that amount, 52 percent is dedicated to mitigation and 48 percent to adaptation and capacity building.

The regional renewable energy and energy efficiency projects for islands in the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean will be jointly implemented by the Word Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Speaking at the signing ceremony here in Cancun, UNDP’s administrator, Helen Clark welcomed Denmark’s financial support saying savings from renewable energy will go a long way in improving the livelihoods of people living in small islands states.

“Most SIDS spend 30 percent of their foreign exchange on fossil fuels. Savings from this project will free up money for other development priorities, including adaptation to climate change, said Clark.

Representing AOSIS, the Prime Minister of Grenada, Tilman Thomas pointed out that the latest scientific evidence was a major concern for island states and that the global community needed to urgently transform the energy sector in order to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) emission.

“Failure to bring about a transformation of the energy sector to GHG emission below 1990 levels within the next decade will see the end of many small island states as viable countries, and many will disappear into the oceans, and others will be significantly reduced in size losing their major economic assets.

Launch of SIDS DOCK at COP 15 in Copenhagen
The Small Island Developing States Sustainable Energy Initiative called SIDS DOCK was developed to provide a DOCKing station facility which provide island states with easier access to financing, technology, technical assistance, and to participate in the global carbon market.

For more on SIDS DOCK please visit:

Scene@COP16: Taking the right path

Protestors at the COP 16 in Cancun asked negotiaters on their way to the Conference venue - "What path will you take?" and provided delegates with two options - one which walked past oil and dead biodiversity, the other past living biodiversity.  When those walked through the right path, fellow supporters clapped and cheered.

While it provided some excitement for those on their way to the negotiations - the question was a very real one here at the negogtiations.

"What path will you take?"

The left path passed dead biodiversity and chemical/oil waste

Oil and dead biodiversity on the left path

Spectators on the other side waiting to support and record the event

Scene@COP16: Will McGoldrick from the Climate Institute

Will McGoldrick, Climate Institute, Australia

"When I was in the Pacific I was working with govt of Samoa helping with a climate change  project, I worked with Annie Rasmussen and we did a lot of adapt, mitigation, and ghg inventory work."

"I am now working for an Australian NGO called The Climate Institute and our main objective is to try and influence Australian domestic policies to get them implementing strong and ambitious climate change actions, NGO's like ours are sort of on the frontline trying to influence things and provide a better future."

Scene@COP16: Oil and Water dont mix!

These protestors got attention at Moon Palace, the venue of the Cancun UN Climate Change negotiations,  raising awareness about oil tankers and off-shore drilling and the risk they pose to our environment.

"Oil does not belong in our oceans. As a global community we need to take a stand to stop off-shore drilling and new tanker routes to keep oil in the soil," a group spokesperson announced.

Marshall Islands initiate climate ‘roadmap’

By Stanley Simpson, Climate Pasifika Media Team

Marshall Islands Minister in Assistance to the President, Hon. Mr Ruben Zackhras

7 December Cancun, Mexico - The Republic of the Marshall Islands has initiated a climate roadmap to respond effectively to the challenges of climate change and the need for Fast Start finance to facilitate this.

Marshall Islands Minister in Assistance to the President – Hon. Mr. Ruben Zackhras explained the roadmap in a session today titled ‘Making Fast Start finance work: A low lying island nation perspective.’

“Our national climate roadmap, adopted by cabinet in September, and our forthcoming policy provide an effective framework for energy and adaptation – these are the vehicles for our Fast Start projects to reach across the whole of our government, and across all of our islands,” Zackhras stated.

“Fast start finance means donor responsibilities – but it also requires political will from recipients to address some very complicated issues. Political leadership on Fast Start from the highest levels is a key ingredient to success.”

Zackhras says the Marshallese cabinet, government officials, NGOs and local communities are now taking positive action to come forward with proposals and initiatives.

“We will use these to develop an initial portfolio and match it with donor support,” he says.

“We must be optimists and engage with donors in mutual discussions. Identifying ‘lessons learned’ will make Fast Start finance work. There are some difficulties to address, but negative messages on Fast Start do not help us.”

The Minister also announced that they have made progress in securing their first Fast Start project – which they will shortly finalise with the US.

“This involves the provision of a technical adviser who will help our government bring our climate roadmap and climate policy to life, this was the first priority, and first step in our roadmap.”

Zackhras started his speech by stating that as a low-lying small island nation, climate change is – for the Marshallese – an issue of survival and statehood.

“We cannot wait for a perfect global agreement – we must start visible action now, even as we build our capacity,” he said.

For other news on Fast Start Finance by Climate Pasifika Media, please visit the below links:
Samoa and Solomon Islands raise questions on fast track finance
Pleas of urgent action of survival on fragile planet
Rush to disburse fast start finance for 2010, U.S commits $21million for the Pacific

High Level Segment of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change

Statement delivered by His Excellency President Marcus Stephen, M.P. on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States.

Gracias, Madame Presidente.

Congratulations on your assumption of the Presidency. We take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation to His Excellency President Calderon and the people of Cancun for your warm hospitality.

I have the great honor to speak on behalf of the fourteen Pacific Small Island Developing States, namely Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and my own country, Nauru.

The Pacific SIDS align themselves fully with the statement to be delivered by His Excellency Tillman Thomas, Prime Minister of Grenada, on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States.

Madame President,

The Pacific has a rich cultural and linguistic tradition. Hundreds of distinct languages are spoken in homes throughout our fourteen countries. No more than 10,000 people speak my native language of Nauruan, and it, like so many others, may soon disappear.

However, none of our words are quite so exotic as the ones spoken by the climate change negotiator. The people who inhabit these walls communicate in acronyms: QELROS, LULUCF, and NAMAs - letters that carry the power to determine which of our nations may thrive and which may vanish beneath the waves.

Yet neither this, nor any other language, adequately captures the destructive impact that climate change is having, and will continue to have, on the people of our region.

The gravity of the crisis has escaped us. It has become lost in a fog of scientific, economic, and technical jargon. Without bold action, it will be left to our children to come up with the words to convey the tragedy of losing our homelands when it did not have to be this way.

So instead, I will describe the task before us by evoking a concept that has universal meaning and power: that of responsibility.

I, along with my fellow leaders from the Pacific, have a first and overriding responsibility to protect the safety and wellbeing of our people. It is the reason that we have flown halfway around the globe to be here today.

Our countries are small, so perhaps the nature of our responsibility is different than in other places. We are not beholden to powerful corporations or entrenched interest groups. Our governments are not deadlocked because of ideological divisions. The decisions we make have a very direct and immediate impact on our neighbors and friends. We are the heads of the Pacific family and we will continue to defend our family when they are put in harms way.

Madame President,

As members of the AOSIS, we have consistently offered proposals that reflect the latest scientific and economic understandings of climate change. We are not seeking charity. Our principles will not be sold to the highest bidder.

We are taking responsibility.

Some of us have convened international summits to facilitate a way forward. Others have declared their intention to make their countries carbon neutral. All of us have developed ambitious low-carbon development plans and have commenced with implementation despite the enormous difficulties we have accessing financial resources. We are fighting to adapt to the new environmental realities we face.

Our priorities are clear. There is very little room for compromise. When you ask us to compromise, you are asking us to choose how many islands we will lose. This is not a choice we are prepared to make.

Our choice is to continue to work towards a fair solution. We are optimistic that this conference can take us one step closer towards a two-track, legally binding outcome in South Africa. This must include amendments to the Kyoto Protocol and a new, Durban Protocol that captures our work on Long-term Cooperative Action.

Madame President,

There is a phrase in these negotiations that gives us hope: “A Shared Vision.” It signifies a unity in purpose and a recognition that all of us are prepared to work towards a more just future. This must be a collective effort to deliver a diverse and abundant planet to our children.

This is the responsibility that all of us in the room -- from the smallest country to the largest -- have been entrusted with. This is on our watch. We must succeed.

Thank you.

Pleas of urgent action on survival of fragile planet

By Makereta Komai, Climate Pasifika Media in Cancun, Mexico

08 DECEMBER 2010 CANCUN ---- Aspirations of hope for the survival of citizens of Small Island and vulnerable states were expressed by world leaders that opened the High Level Segment of the climate change talks currently underway in Cancun, Mexico.

Nauru’s President, Marcus Stephen was the first world leader to address the high level session, speaking on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS).

“Our priorities are clear. There is very little room for compromise. When you ask us to compromise, you are asking us to choose how many islands we will lose. This is not a choice we are prepared to make.

“Our choice is to continue to work towards a fair solution. We are optimistic that this conference can take us one step closer towards a two-track, legally binding outcome in South Africa. This must include amendments to the Kyoto Protocol and a new, Durban Protocol that captures our work on Long-term Cooperative Action, said President Stephen.

UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres identified Tuvalu Kiribati, Maldives and Vanuatu as countries whose citizens want urgent action from their climate negotiators.

“They are looking for ways to evacuate their entire population because of salt water intrusion and rising sea levels. Sooner rather than later, island nations will have to seek refuge in other, higher lying countries.

UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres

“Their fate is a wake-up call to all of us, said Figueres

She said a solid response to climate change demands nothing less than putting international climate policy firmly back on track.

“You can only do that by moving beyond the boundaries of short-term national interests to converge in that space which is common to all of us, that space where we are all human beings dependent on the well-being of this now fragile planet, and where we are all jointly accountable to future generations.

“And you can reach that space only through conciliation with each other now.

The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon urged negotiators not to gamble with the future of the globe’s nearly seven billion population.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon

“The longer we delay, the more we will pay – economically, environmentally and in human lives.”

There is no single magic solution but ‘wherever we can, we must move forward in the right direction, said the UN Secretary General.

Solutions – he said can be in the form of four areas and these decisions are ripe for adoption.

“On protecting forests, which account for 17 percent of global emissions, on climate adaptation, technology transfer and some elements of finance.

On the challenging issues of mitigation, transparency and accountability and additional clarity on the future of the Kyoto Protocol, Bank Ki Moon, expects some progress on these issues.

On the fast start financing, he revealed that developed nations have almost completed their commitments for US$30 billion committed in Copenhagen in 2009.

“However, we need to make progress on the actual delivery of the funds, along with a transparent and robust accountability system, he said.

A delegate from Seychelles speaking to online bloggers accredited to the UN climate change talks, expressed the disappointment of many small and vulnerable island states saying that of the $10 billion fast start finance committed for 2010, only 20 percent of the funds have been earmarked for adaptation to climate change.

“This contradicts the promise that the fund will be shared equally between mitigation and adaptation, said the irate Seychelles delegate.

Then there is discussion that some of these funds may be available as loans and not as grants, said the delegate.

“I use the analogy that if someone drives a car into your backyard, smashes your garden and you say hey what are you doing. He replies, I’ll give you a loan to pay for the damage caused. That’s exactly how we feel. Do we have to be in debt to adapt to climate change, questioned the Seychelles delegate.

Awareness is the key, says Fund board member

By Stanley Simpson, Climate Pasifika Media Team

7 December, Cancun, Mexico - As debate and discussion continues in Cancun on how to directly access funds from the climate change Adaptation Fund Board and set up National Implementing Entities (NIEs) – a member of the Board has thrown his support behind the need for a capacity building and regional workshop on the facility.

AOSIS has put forward a draft text proposing regional workshops on the Adaptation Fund.

Peceli Vocea, Fiji’s ambassador to Brussels who sits on the board says awareness is the key – and will allow countries to know what exactly needs to be done to access the fund.

“I believe it is about awareness, awareness about what needs to be addressed,” says Ambassador Vocea.

“If there is going to be a NIE in a country then they have to meet certain fiduciary standards, accountability standards, transparency standards which I think most of the Ministries themselves – particularly in Fiji – can qualify for. Its just a matter of understanding what the benchmark is.”

“NIE’s must look to meet the benchmarks so that the Board can have confidence in the entity to account for the funds.”

Vocea says it is just early days for the fund which was established in 2006/2007 and which has been trying to put in place operating and financial procedures to be followed.

“There are some regions, including our region that are pushing for awareness workshops. We need to have focused meetings just for the adaptation fund and the issues related to it.”

“I will support a regional workshop. I think there are a few ways we can bring this awareness campaign to the region.

However Vocea is mindful that no funds have been set aside for awareness – only for concrete adaptation proposals.

UK shares experience on loss and damage

By Makereta Komai, Climate Pasifika Media in Cancun, Mexico

08 DECEMBER 2010 CANCUN --- United Kingdom’s climate change secretary, Chris Huhne agrees that insurance costs associated with climate change must be dealt with, in the context of the negotiations currently underway here in Cancun.

And, he used the huge pay-out by insurance companies to victims of floods as examples of the huge costs involved in a disaster caused by climate change.

“In the UK alone, over the last 10 years, the pay-out for flooding was 4.5 billion pounds whereas in the previous 10 years, it was 1.5 billion pounds.

“This is hard business evidence of the costs that are being inflicted on our economies by climate change and we have to tackle this problem, said Huhne.

Huhne’s concern is shared by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), who have been calling for loss and damage to be reflected in the outcome of the Cancun talks.

“Even with the 1.5 degree Celsius that AOSIS is pushing for, there will still be high damage and cost and that is why we must have an adaptation committee endorsed here in Cancun, said Ambassador Dessima Williams speaking on behalf of AOSIS.

“We also need to establish a loss and damage mechanism to begin the global task of dealing with the unavoidable damage from the impacts of climate change. '

“Robust scientific information is essential to improving our understanding and to guide policy makers and leaders.

Responding to the findings of the Emissions Gap Report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Ambassador Williams said while report does not specifically talk about the 1.5 degree goal, AOSIS is optimistic that ‘our goal is feasible’

“The foundation for elements for that reduction must be laid here in Cancun and not just on mitigation.

“Two years ago, at COP14 in Poznan, AOSIS set a long term goal of limiting the temperature to below 1.5 degrees Celsius. At that time, critics described this goal as unrealistic but AOSIS believed and continues to believe that it is fundamental for our survival and there is a now a coalition of 106 countries that have embraced this goal.

“If you have a village with 192 houses and 106 of them are beginning to warm up to the level of burning, you clearly want to two things – insurance for loss and damage and take measures to cool the heat, said Ambassador Williams

“The UNEP report is an extraordinary scientific endorsement of the need for more ambitious policy measures and outcomes in a balanced way at Cancun.

The draft negotiating text is still referencing 2 degree Celsius with a process of review expected in the outcome document next week, said Ambassador Williams.

The Emissions Gap Report, published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) clearly shows a 5 Gigatonne gap between the climate science and the commitments under the Copenhagen Accord.

If all the voluntary commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the Copenhagen Accord were met, it would only cover 60 percent of the emissions reduction needed to keep the global temperatures under 2 degrees Celsius, said the report.

What happens to the 40 percent is the question in the mind of negotiators here in Cancun, if all the pledges were met.

The UNEP report is jointly authored by over 30 leading scientists from numerous international research institutes.

UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said, "I encourage all Parties to make good on their national mitigation pledges, and to further progress within the negotiations as well as through strengthened efforts on the ground to curb emissions. There is no time to waste. By closing

It is estimated that, in order to have a 'likely' and cost-effective chance of pegging temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius or below over the 21st Century, global emissions will need to have peaked within the next 10 years and be around 44 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2020.

AOSIS countries are asking that global emissions peak at 2015.

The report, whose compilation was led by the UNEP Chief Scientist, finds that:

Under a business-as-usual scenario, annual emissions of greenhouse gases could be around 56 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2020. As a point of reference, global emissions were estimated to be around 48 gigatonnes in 2009;

Fully implementing the pledges and intentions associated with the Copenhagen Accord could, in the best case identified by the group, cut emissions to around 49 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent by 2020;

This would leave a gap of around 5 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent that needs to be bridged over the coming decade - an amount equal to the emissions of all the world's cars, buses and trucks in 2005;

In the worst case identified in the report - where countries follow their lowest ambitions and accounting rules set by negotiators are lax rather than strict - emissions could be as high as 53 gigatonnes in 2020, only slightly lower than business as usual projections.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "The results indicate that the UN meeting in Copenhagen could prove to have been more of a success than a failure if all the commitments, intentions and funding, including fully supporting the pledges of developing economies, are met."

"There is a gap between the science and current ambition levels. But, what this report shows is that the options on the table right now in the negotiations can get us almost 60 per cent of the way there. This is a good first step, said Steiner.