BY: Kosi Latu, Director General, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP)
APIA, SAMOA – WEDNESDAY 21 DECEMBER 2016: “While the Twenty-second Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP23) may be over, it was straight from one monumental environment event to another with the start of the Thirteenth Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP13) that followed in Cancun, as well as the eighth Green Climate Fund Board Meeting hosted by Samoa.
Finding a moment of calm in this hectic international schedule, there is always a good time to reflect on the outcomes of the UNFCCC COP23 hosted in Marrakech this year from 7 – 18 November, and to understand how some of these outcomes may impact us here in the Pacific region.
We won’t paint a story of how climate change is impacting us in the Pacific islands as this is a story that we all know so well. We will, however have a look at what 190+ country parties have agreed to at the international level, which will eventually affect us all in our homes at the national and community level.
History was made yet again, with the Paris Agreement legally coming into force just days before the actual COP22 started in Marrakech, Morocco, and for this we must congratulate our Pacific island members who played a pivotal role in helping to make this happen by ensuring they had all ratified the agreement within a one year period. Congratulations also to another of our members from the Pacific, Australia, who announced their ratification of the Paris Agreement during the COP.
There were other milestone moments for our Pacific island region, with Fiji announced as the new President of the UNFCCC COP23, the first time for a Small Islands Developing State to take up such a role. This means Fiji will organize the event which will be hosted at the headquarters of the UNFCCC Secretariat in Bonn, Germany from 6 – 17 November next year. Fiji will also facilitate dialogues and workshops over the coming year to help bring about resolutions that will serve all parties to the UNFCCC. Congratulations Fiji and SPREP is ready, willing and available to provide support and assistance for the year ahead.
The Marrakech Action Proclamation for Our Climate and Sustainable Development was adopted calling for the highest political commitment to combat climate change, as a matter of urgent priority. It also called for further climate change action and support, well in advance of 2020, taking into account the specific needs and special circumstances of developing countries, the least developed countries and those particularly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change.
It was in Marrakech that it was agreed for the Adaptation Fund to serve the Paris Agreement pending decisions on governance and other issues. The Adaptation Fund was established under the Kyoto Protocol and has since provided funding to five Pacific island countries totaling over USD 14 million. This now means the Adaptation Fund continues and will remain available for Pacific island countries to help them undertake projects to adapt to climate change.
The discussions on Loss and Damage saw Parties conduct the first review of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage. This mechanism was established at COP19 and is also working under the Paris Agreement. Its’ role is to develop approaches to help vulnerable countries cope with unavoidable climate impacts such as slow-onset events like sea level rise. Pepetua Latasi of Tuvalu is the co-Chair of the WIM Executive Committee. The next review will take place in 2019 with ongoing reviews to happen every five years which may align with the global stocktake under the Paris Agreement, as before this there was only a two-year work programme. Also to note for the Pacific islands, the 2019 review will look at financial support made available to support loss and damage work, including the modalities for accessing such support.
Adaptation Communications, a country report to be submitted on a regular basis that communicates adaptation priorities, needs and efforts on a regular basis was an outcome of the Paris Agreement. It was decided that how the report was to be submitted is flexible, and it could be part of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), or National Communications (Nat Comms) country party reports that are already underway, or it could be a separate report. Since Marrakech there were further discussions on this, in particular the purpose of this adaptation communication, the elements it would include, possible linkages to other issues, vehicle and timing for communicating them and other flexibilities required. There has also been a call for countries for submissions to input into this, which must be provided to the UNFCCC by 12 January, 2017.
The Global Environment Facility also established the Trust Fund for the Capacity-building Initiative for Transparency to help parties meet their reporting requirements under the UNFCCC, in particular for mitigation. More than USD 50 million was pledged for the new Trust which was declared ‘open for business’ at COP22.
Aside from outcomes from the COP22, other major milestone achievements were made on the sidelines. SPREP signed an agreement with Climate Analytics and Charles and Associates to implement the IMPACT project. This will continue on from the Survive Project and the High Level Support Mechanism which aimed to enhance the participation of SIDS negotiators at the international climate negotiations through building capacity of Pacific negotiators with SPREP.
Another component of IMPACT will strengthen the linkages between the climate science impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to help enable access to finance and help implement concrete projects. The very first workshop of this will take place in the first quarter of 2017, and this project is currently seeking a Senior Research Associate: Climate Change Strategies to be based at SPREP to help contribute to the IMPACT Project.
Much was achieved and compromises made over the course of the two weeks of negotiations at the UN Climate COP, what we have shared here today are just a few of what may be key outcomes for the Pacific islands, there were so many more which may be relevant to your island nation. To read the outcomes of the COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco this year, please visit: http://unfccc.int/2860.php#auv
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2017, and look forward to working with you all in the New Year ahead.”
Director General, SPREP