It is indeed a pleasure – on behalf of the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat – Dame Meg Taylor – to welcome you all to the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, and particularly as it relates to one of the key priority issues on our Leaders agenda – Climate Change. Of equal importance it is about each one of you, and how we as women can (and need to) bring significant positive change to the global advocacy and action on Climate Change.
In saying this, I take this opportunity to acknowledge Australia’s continued strong support to Pacific women in our Pacific region – to ensure that women’s voices and women’s participation are enhanced and particularly on issues of global significance that pose risks to women’s safety and development, and to the safety and development of their families and their communities. This workshop is an ongoing initiative that PIFS is always proud to be associated with, and we look forward to continued support from Australia in this regard.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the organizer and facilitator of this workshop the – Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) – who bring to this discussion their expertise in supporting women from many countries across different regions to participate effectively in the complex UNFCCC processes. I note from the Speakers’ list, that WEDO has drawn together experts from within our own Pacific region, who through their own experiences negotiating on behalf of the Pacific, will add value to the discussions over the next few days.
We can all be proud that our Leaders have been strong advocates in raising the profile of our region on an issue that poses continuing and growing threats and requires continuing and urgent action if we are to secure a sustainable future for our region, for our communities and for our families.
The Climate Change and Oceans which were adopted as stand-along goals of the 2030 Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals – outlined in the UN Resolution of September, 2015 – is testament to this.
Furthermore, through strong global momentum of which all our Pacific countries were a part of, the Paris Agreement was adopted by consensus in December, 2015. It’s entry into force in November, 2016 – less than a year after its adoption was indeed an historical moment that we can all be proud of – as it was our joint voice and collective action – as Pacific island nations that was heard and taken heed of.
However, as we are all so cognisant of, it is only the beginning. With the Paris Agreement coming into force just a few weeks before COP22 in Marrakesh, the dilemma of what to do next became the stark reality?
How can we operationalize the Paris Agreement so that the issues that are of significance to our region, such as pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels through ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and supporting adaptation through upscaled and accessible Long Term Finance, as well as ensuring the contentious issue of Loss and Damage are more than adequately addressed?
COP22 in Marrakesh could have been better – but we can understand that there remained a great deal of uncertainty and the unexpected early, entry into force of the Paris Agreement may have contributed. Such outcomes underscore why this type of training workshop is of crucial importance. We should not remain idle and we should not let the world through their inactivity and uncertainty undermine the significance of the effects and threats of Climate Change to the very survival and future of our region.
As many of you would be aware COP23 poses an opportunity for the region as a whole with, one of our own – Fiji – taking the helm to Chair COP23 later this year, in Bonn Germany. The Association of Small Island Developing States (AOSIS) as a recognized negotiation block, have adopted COP23 as the SIDS COP and we should remain mindful of this in our preparations for it. We could be bold and go that one-step further to claim COP23 as the PACIFIC COP. But if we are to do so the power of your voices and your active participation are what will count toward making COP23 effective, beneficial and impactful for our region as-a-whole and for that matter ensuring that the spotlight remains on the Pacific beyond COP23.
However, to ensure that global agreements such as the SDG’s and the Paris Agreement reap benefits to our people, institutional and governance arrangements need to be strengthened at the regional and national levels. To this effect our Leaders have approved the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific: An Integrated Approach to Address Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management (FRDP) which provides high level strategic guidance to different stakeholder groups on how to enhance resilience to climate change and disasters, in ways that contribute to and are embedded in sustainable development. It is the building block by which your work at the global level can be operationalized at the regional and national levels.
There is indeed much that can be done and your participation today can take the Pacific a long way towards facilitating and supporting resilient development in this region. The UN Women Watch supported by experience around the world highlights that women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men—primarily as they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent for their livelihood on natural resources that are threatened by climate change. Furthermore, they face social, economic and political barriers that limit their coping capacity. Despite all of this, it is very clear that representation of women at key negotiating fora such as the COP has been poor. You being here today is a step toward correcting this anomaly.
The key underlining principle of the SDG’s and the Paris Agreement is that no-one should be left behind and that everyone counts. This training is an investment toward the leadership role that you will be taking on behalf of your country and the region as-a-whole. This training will ensure that the voices of those most vulnerable with limited opportunity to be heard will be heard through you. Your voices count and they should continue to be heard – as your course brochure so aptly states: PARTICIPATION IS POWER. If we remain on the sidelines and keep quiet, we may be overlooked by stronger voices that deviate and distract attention away from us.
I strongly urge all of you to make the most of the 4 days that you are here and to take advantage of the expertise that this training has brought together to facilitate and support your participation and leadership in UNFCCC negotiations. I wish you all the very best and I thank again Australia and the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) for making this training a reality for the women of the Pacific.