The Pacific nations did not come to Durban to fail.
This was the assertion made by the President of Nauru, H.E. Mr Sprent Dabwido, at the opening plenary of the High Level Segment of United Nations Climate Change Conference today in Durban, South Africa.
President Dabwido was speaking on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS), an informal grouping represented at the United Nations that includes Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
“Our conversation about climate change, and the challenge that addressing this growing crisis entails, has entered its third decade,” said President Dabwido.
“This audience is certainly aware of the worst consequences of inaction, though they are still worth repeating, so that we do not forget the magnitude of the task before us.”
Some 20,000 delegates, including seasoned international climate change negotiators from across the globe are in Durban this week for the UN Climate Change Conference. Outlooks have been mixed as negotiators stand their ground on key climate change issues on the conference agenda.
“I am from the Pacific, and the 14 island nations in our group are often said to be on the “frontlines” of this struggle,” said President Dabwido.
“The combat metaphor is apt, because it is not an exaggeration to say that climate change is, for us, a matter of life and death.”
President Dabwido highlighted the plight of communities in Pacific islands that have been forced to flee their homes to escape rising seas.
“Unless bold action is taken, much of my region could be rendered uninhabitable within our grandchildren’s lifetimes.”
President Dabwido’s plea to COP17 was to firstly refocus the negotiations on mitigation and immediately begin a process to ratchet up the ambition of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level that ensures the viability and survival of all nations.
“Next, we must have a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol with an enhanced set of rules to strengthen its environmental integrity” said President Dabwido.
“Some may think we have the luxury of waiting until we build a new regime. We do not. The Pacific most certainly does not.”
President Dabwido also called for a “Durban Mandate” for a new, legally binding protocol to complement Kyoto, with binding mitigation commitments for non-Kyoto Parties and mitigation actions for developing countries, as well as the conclusion of all other elements of the Bali Action Plan.
“Along-side these three key priorities, we must complete the work begun in Cancun, notably the Green Climate Fund, the Adaptation Committee, and the work programme on loss and damage.”
The UN Climate Change Conference concludes this Friday with high hopes for ongoing political momentum and concrete outcomes around climate change mitigation, adaptation and financing.