COP 23: The Power of an Ocean

6 November 2017

What a year 2017 has been! No region has been spared the increasingly intense and extreme weather events that are becoming more frequent and as a result of climate change. Hurricanes, wildfires, droughts, floods, not to mention the superstorm that is the current US Administration. Fiji Prime Minister Bainimarama rightly said that when it comes to climate change, “we are all in the same canoe.”
If we don’t come together and act, things are only going to get worse. “Extreme” events could become the new normal. This year’s UN Environment Emissions Gap report finds that current NDCs will only reduce emissions by a third of what is required by 2030. Even with their full implementation, a temperature increase of at least 3ºC by 2100 is very likely. ECO first wrote, in 2010, that the next few years are crucial to closing this mitigation gap, and that it requires a sharp increase in mitigation ambition, climate finance flows, technology cooperation, and capacity building. Negotiators, do you hear us now?
To facilitate transformational change and limit warming in line with Article 2 of the Paris Agreement, making climate finance available on the ground is key. Climate change is going beyond the ability of people and ecosystems to adapt. The lack of essential progress to mitigate and adapt to climate change means that vulnerable countries, communities, and ecosystems now face catastrophic changes. This phenomenon is known to negotiators as “Loss and Damage.” Put in normal terms: The most vulnerable are already suffering terrible consequences and if we do not take decisive action, the good ship planet Earth looks certain to run aground.
But don’t despair, dear negotiators, the future is in your hands. While individually we may be but drops, together we embody the power of an ocean. Jointly you have the power to ensure smooth sailing ahead. At the first Pacific COP, please bear in mind that your action, or lack of action, will set the course for the future of our planet and the very survival of the most vulnerable. Your countries ratified and embraced the goals and visionary ambition of the Paris Agreement. For the Agreement to be effective it needs robust guidelines that encourage countries to raise ambition over time, while providing support to those that need it to manage the transition, to adapt, and to cope with loss and damage. Don’t let the Paris Agreement be but a vision of a far off future on the horizon of a rough sea. Let us transform this vision into the concrete promises it deserves to be.
ECO is here to help. In order for COP 24 to deliver what has been agreed in Paris, there are a few things that need to happen during these two weeks.
First, you need to make substantive progress through constructive negotiations on the Paris implementation guidelines. Balanced and constructive discussions need to happen to make progress across all areas of the Paris Agreement Work Programme. To stay on track for finalizing the guidelines at COP 24, this COP needs to prepare a zero draft of the implementation guidelines. Nothing less will do!
Second, ECO enthusiastically welcomes the Talanoa Dialogue. Talanoa means inclusive, participatory, and transparent dialogue that builds empathy and leads to decision making for the collective good. Parties should work in this Talanoa spirit to lay the groundwork for a successful outcome from the Dialogue in 2018. This is a vital opportunity to provide the information, create the right conditions, and send the political signals to empower Parties to make their NDCs more ambitious by 2020. Talanoa can thus engender a spirit of collaboration and trust that is needed to provide direction and enhance critical pre-2020 action and support.
Dear delegates, this work is essential to ensure smooth sailing on the seas ahead. But some waves are already breaking on our shores. Pacific islanders are threatened by rising sea levels, forcing them to abandon their land. Heavy, unseasonal rains have made farming impossible in many places, and increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather events are causing untold damage all over the world. Therefore, loss and damage must be addressed at COP 23. ECO notes with grave concern that the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM) has yet to make progress on its core mission of delivering finance for addressing loss and damage. Let’s give the WIM a fighting chance to fulfil its agreed mandate. At COP 23, ECO calls for the establishment of an initiative for loss and damage finance, with a two year work plan identifying sources of revenue adequate to the scale of the problem delivered in a fair and predictable way. Enough finance to enable the WIM to do its job: to pay for those impacts caused by our failure to mitigate climate changes that are now unavoidable.
The adoption of the Paris Agreement sparked real hope that governments were serious about ambitious and collaborative climate action in pursuit of a world where warming would be limited to 1.5ºC. This year has provided us, again, with a stark reminder of the consequences of delaying action. COP 23 must lay the groundwork for collective progress towards the Paris goals and prepare the way for revised, more ambitious NDCs. We expect nothing less from a Pacific COP.

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