Thursday 6 December 2012

Marshall Islands calls on other nations to break "you go first" deadlock at UN climate talks

Marshall Islands Minister-In-Assistance to the President, Tony deBrum being interviewed by Fiji TV

6 December 2012, Doha, Qatar - Marshall Islands Minister-In-Assistance to the President, Tony deBrum, after a meeting between the Alliance of Small Island States and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, announced that "the next Pacific Islands Forum Leader's summit, hosted by the Marshall Islands in August 2013 will be a key milestone leading up to the 2014 global leaders climate meeting.  It is time the world focused not only on our vulnerability, but on our leadership.  The Pacific will not only call on other nations to break the "you go first" deadlock, but as incoming Chair, we will be challenging our own members, including small islands, to raise climate change to the top of the political agenda."

Marshall Islands Minister makes a strong call at UN Climate talks

Halitesh Datt, Fiji TV in Doha, Qatar
Interview with Hon. Tony A. deBrum, Minister in Assistance to the President of the Marshall Islands

6 December, 2012 - The tuna supply of the Marshall Islands is threatened by the impacts of climate change.

The Islands is part of the Nauru Group consisting of eight countries that supplies 52 percent of raw tuna to the world market.

Marshall Islands Minister in Assistance to the President, Tony deBrum says the rich marine ecosystem of the Marshall Islands is bleaching and degrading, thus not reflecting a positive future for the thriving industry.

According to the Minister in assistance to the President, the Marshall Islands is only two meters above the sea level and is in the world's top five list of most vulnerable areas to climate change.

Just like other Pacific Island Countries, the Islands is also hoping that Industrialised nations commit to a five-year second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol.

With the Marshall Islands earmarked to host the 44th Pacific Islands Forum next year, deBrum is optimistic that the issues of climate change would be one of the leading agendas of the Pacific leaders.

To take the first step itself in mitigating the impacts of climate change, the Marshall Islands will have all its houses and buildings powered by the solar energy by the end of next year.

The Islands is also venturing into ocean thermal energy conversion projects..

Pacific Women in Climate Change - meet Pepetua Latasi, Tuvalu

Ms. Pepetua Latasi, presenting on behalf of the LEG at the UN Climate change negotiations in Doha

5 December 2012, Doha, Qatar - This is the third in a series of human interest stories by SPREP’s Nanette Woonton on Pacific women showing leadership in the climate change field.

Sitting here at the Pacific booth at the UN Climate Negotiations in Doha, every so often someone will ask me where the Pacific is.  When I list the countries people nod when they hear Tahiti and Fiji, but when I mention Tuvalu there is a knowing smile, “aaaah…sinking islands,” is what they usually say.

Tuvalu, according to the World Bank in 2011, has a population of close to 10,000 people.  I’ve met a Tuvaluan who has left her shores for these two weeks to make a splash at the international arena and she seems to be doing a good job.  Ms. Pepetua Latasi of Tuvalu is the only female in the Expert Group for the Least Developed Countries aka the LEG, at the UN Climate Negotiations on top of that she is the Head of this group and has been reinstated to complete a second two year term.

“It’s very challenging.  When I first started I was really lost.  This is a really complicated process and the language they use is like a whole new dialect.  They shorten everything, and there are so many acronyms,” said Pepetua.

“I have found out that the only way you can get your message across is by making your voice heard by others and that is one of the greatest things I find about being the Chair of the LEG, I can let people know where Tuvalu is and what we are experiencing because most people don’t know.”

The LEG consists of 12 members two of them are from the Small Island Developing States, Tuvalu and Solomon Islands.  It was established to advise and provide technical support to the Least Developed Country parties on issues related to adaptation and meets twice a year.

Under the guidance of Ms. Pepetua Latasi, the Least Developed Countries Expert Group completed their technical guidelines for the National Adaptation Plan of Action, which must be implemented by the LDC’s under the United Nations Framework Convention to Climate Change. 

The LEG is now working on the National Action Plan technical guidelines which will be presented at the UN climate negotiations in Doha, Qatar.

“It is an experts group so there is no negotiations work done in this group at all, it is all technical work in the LEG.  It takes a lot of time and commitment to be a part of this, on top of what I am already doing at the national level in Tuvalu.  It is a lot of work.”

It’s amazing that a Pacific woman from the island nation of Tuvalu is leading a group of 12 special experts at this international arena.  Especially Pepetua, she caught up on the process after taking a break to complete her Undergraduate degree in climate change policy and environment management 2008 and then returned to join the UN climate negotiations in 2011. 

Pepetua also presented at the opening meeting of the 18th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, reading a statement on behalf of the Least Developed Experts Group, addressing a meeting hall of several thousand people.

“It’s a very good experience being the Chair of the LEG.  I am building my capacity, but have also established networks and met people that are able to assist us and Tuvalu.”

Pepetua taking time out during a lunch break, with her Tuvalu delegates

A lot of commitment, hard work and support, has helped Pepetua succeed at what she does including support at home.  Pepetua is the mother of a young son and having spent a number of years in this process, with her heavy work schedule the dynamics have changed at home.

“I have a little boy at home and after doing this process for a while I miss out on a lot.  Things like his birthday, preschool graduations and all those types of things.  I have even noticed at home that my son turns to his father for things that he used to ask me to do, the little things like if my son wants a drink or wants to go to sleep, he asks for his Father instead of me, he has a growing attachment to his Dad more than me.”

Secure in the support she has, Pepetua has stepped up to the plate.  She is representing her island nation with pride, being fearless in making the voice of Tuvalu heard and taking on the responsibility of leading a UN climate change experts group.  You hear the expression – “one can sink or swim.”  Having dived into the UN climate negotiations, Peptua is definitely swimming strong.

“I encourage other Pacific women to take whatever positions they have taken on, especially in taking leadership positions.  There is nothing wrong a women excelling in a typically male environment.  I’d tell them to go for it!”

Pacific women in climate change.

Palau at the UN Climate Talks in Doha

Halitesh Datt, Fiji TV in Doha, Qatar
Interview with Mr. Joseph Aitaro,  National Coordinator, Palau Protected Areas Network

So far we have heard how climate change has been posing a long and short term threats to countries around the world especially Pacific.
However climate change is now a major threat to Palau's leading income earner, the tourism industry.

With a population of just over 20 thousand people, Palau is now facing unpredictable weather patterns, coastal erosion, damage to its natural beauty as well as food security issues.

The United Nations Environment Programme has now stepped in to provide Palau monitoring and technical support.

Palau is also hoping that the second commitment period by the world leaders  would bear some positive results.