News Item

​Call for action as COP23 wraps up

News 18 Nov 2017

World leaders have been left with plenty to ponder as the 23rd annual Conference of Parties (COP23) United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC) in Bonn, Germany wraps up.

The two week summit concluded on Friday following the high level segment, attracting ministers from around the globe, and 25 Heads of State and Government.

On Wednesday, COP23 President and Prime Minister of Fiji, Hon. Frank Bainimarama called on governments to make swift progress on taking forward climate action and finalising the rulebook of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

The PM is the first representative of a small island developing state (SIDS) – and a Pacific island nation - to preside over the conference, and throughout the summit, he has pushed the Pacific region’s struggle against climate change to the forefront of people’s minds.

When he opened the conference two weeks ago, PM Bainimarama referred to a drua exhibited at conference venue, and once again, the PM reminded the world leaders everyone is bound by their common interest in reducing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

“This is humanity’s mission, it is a symbolic of the journey we must all make together.”

Also present at the high level gathering was 12-year-old Timoci Naulusala (pictured), and 10-year-old Shalvi Shakshi, who were at the COP23 conference with their parents after winning a speech competition in Fiji.

The students had seen first-hand the devastating impacts of climate change in Fiji from Cyclone Winston.

Timoci made a touching and passionate plea for climate action.

"The sea is swallowing villages, eating away at shorelines, withering crops.

“Relocation of people...cries over lost loved ones, dying of hunger and thirst.

“It’s catastrophic, it’s sad…but it’s real - you may think it will only affect small nations...you are wrong.”

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has commended Fiji for assuming the Presidency role – a crucial task and highly symbolic given the risks all island states face from climate change.

Last month, he visited islands facing the impacts of a warming world - Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica – and he says he was shocked by the hurricane damage he saw.

“The voice of small island states that are on the front lines of climate change must be voice of us all,” the Secretary-General says.

“Floods, fires, extreme storms and drought are growing in intensity and frequency - atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are higher than they have been for 800,000 years.

“Climate change is the defining threat of our time and our duty - to each other and to future generations - is to raise ambition.”

He has called for more ambition in five specific action areas - emissions; adaptation to the inevitable impacts of climate change; finance; partnerships and leadership.

With the latest UN Environment Programme Emissions Gap Report showing current pledges will only deliver a third of what is needed to stay in the safety zones of the Paris Agreement, and scientists forecasting 2017 will see the first increase in CO2 emissions in three years, there is no time for complacency.

The UN Chief has also pointed out the good news in the world of climate action, for example, carbon markets are growing and merging and the green bond market is expanding, with this year’s issuance of green bonds already exceeding last year’s record.

He also welcomed the new German-led initiative to provide insurance against extreme weather events for 400 million more vulnerable people by 2020, and the Global Climate Action Agenda which was accelerated at COP23, involving regions, cities, business, investors and civil society.

All of this is encouraging for governments who are in process of implementing the Paris Climate Change Agreement.

Last week also saw Tuvalu's Prime Minister Hon. Enele Sopoaga share how his nation is under attack from the effects of climate change.

The PM spoke during the Global Climate Action Day on Oceans and Coastal Zones, an event which looked at the impacts of ocean warming, acidification, de-oxygenation, sea-level rise and increased storm activity, all of which affect Pacific nations.

This event also discussed how these impacts made people more vulnerable to migration and displacement.

PM Sopoaga says it was time to insist on global action to save the oceans.

"Oceans are a source of life for Tuvalu, but now it is being attacked by the impacts of climate change.

“The coral reefs are bleaching, acidification and also the ocean is causing a lot of erosion, so I think we must continue to insist that those who are causing greenhouse gas and global warming to stop doing that."

Tuvalu's United Nations mission has also proposed a legal framework be created for people displaced by climate change.

Also emerging from COP23 last week was the launch of a UN initiative to protect people in SIDS from the health impacts of climate change.

The World Health Organisation and the UN Climate Change secretariat have drafted a strategy at the COP23 meeting in Bonn in partnership with Fiji who proposed the move.

PM Bainimarama says this plan will better equip small island states with knowledge, resources and technology to increase the resilience of their health systems.

The plan aims to climate-proof health systems, collect evidence for investment and triple international financial support to small island states.

Visit COP23 for more information.

(Photo credit: www.cop23.unfccc.int)