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Readers may be aware that through our work on our Pacific Calling Partnership initiative, ERC has been able to support attendance of delegations from Australia and from climate vulnerable Pacific Island communities to the Bali COP14 and Copenhagen COP15 UN Climate Change Summits.
The goal of these efforts has been to raise consciousness of the human face of climate change - which should be above considerations of a scientific, political or economic nature. Our positive experiences at these earlier events have affirmed for us the value of the investment in effort, time, finances and and carbon impact.
This year we have again sent a delegation to the UN COP16 Climate Change Summit being held in Cancun, Mexico from 29th November 2010 to 10th December 2010. Read below in our ERC Cancun Diary the day by day news, analysis and reflections of ERC's Phil Glendenning, Jill Finnane, Maria Tiimon and others attending the summit in Cancun as part of the Pacific Calling Partnership delegation.
Such efforts are only possible due to the support of our donors. Please consider if you too are able to make a donation to support ERC's hands-on advocacy work for the vulnerable.
A little bit of hope emerging heading into the final day, but no more than that yet. One of the sticking points seems to be the queue of nations wanting to be referred to as 'vulnerable'.
As one of the Tuvalu delegates put it at the PCP side event this morning, "If large nations who can move people around their countries internally are also vulberable, then where does that leave us? How do you describe us?"
Tuvalu currently faces inundation from both sides in a storm surge and in the March-April ccyclone season. At those times not only does the country flood from the sides, salt water bubbles up from beneath the ground. They are getting on with it - planting coral and even holding an annual Cyclone Festival.
However, it is fair to say that the world as gathered here in Cancun is largely deaf to the cries of the Pacific nations who see themselves, along with Bangladesh and the Maldives as being at the frontline of vulnerability. As one delegate from a develpoed country told me, "the tragedy here is that no one is going in arguing for the survival of Kiribati and Tuvalu." Australia and New Zealand have got to do more on this front.
Whilst we welcome Minister Combet's announcement today of 50% of Australian assistance to developing countries for adaptation, and 25% for the most vulnerable, it needs to use its good ofices to speak out about the interests of some of our closest neighbours.
Funding is important, significant and essential. But so too is solidarity, advocacy and courage to speak with those with most to lose, and to amplify their concerns. To take their life and death situation with the seriousness it deserves.
For Kiribati and Tuvalu climate change is not a scenario, it is reality, a reality that needs to be talked about and acted on by more than them.
"Time and tide wait for no one", the Samoan Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, told a press conference here in Cancun, sitting alongside his counterparts from Nauru, Kiribati, the Federated States of Micronesia and Tuvalu.
All of them could not have been more clear in stating that - unlike many other vulnerable nations around the world - in the Pacific: the future has arrived.
Earlier Kiribati President Anote Tong told a packed plenary session this morning that sea level rise predictions had been too conservative, and that communities in his country had suffered more in the past year than at any other time.
"For us, this is a matter of survival and the need for urgency has not been reflected in the slow pace since Copenhagen", President Tong told delegates.
In the spirit of the Ambo Declaration of last month he called for an urgent package of resources to be made available immediately, and translated into immediate action.
Later, during the afternoon press conference, President Tong outlined why his country initially did not sign the Copenhagen Accord. "We felt the Accord fell well short of what was required. We ultimately did sign the Accord, because we were given advice that if we did, adaptation funding would be available. Those monies never flowed".
President Tong pressed upon delegates the need to understand the reality of the urgency of the situation in Kiribati. "It costs us over $2 million to build sea walls to protect just a handful of villages. We have done the costing. It would cost us millions of dollars to cover all the islands. We do not have these resources," he said.
Time and tide waits for no one. The island states have urged delegates - including those from other less developed countries - to understand that there are degrees of vulnerability. The Pacific atoll countries, the Maldives, Bangladesh are at the forefront and urgently need resources to simply buy time while the world comes to grips with the reality of climate change.
There remains cautious optimism that something worthwhile on the funding front can be achieved but the next two days will tell whether the outcome arrived at on Friday will be a just one.
Someone extraordinarily famous once said (and has forever been quoted in those aphorism collections on desk calendars) that 'all politics is local'. He (I presume it was a he) was obviously not from a frontline vulnerable state facing the impact of climate change.
From the richest industrialised nations here through to the poorest nations present, as there is a variance in wealth, so, too, there is a variance in the impact of global gatherings like this one in Cancun. More specifically there is a variance between outcomes from here and their impact on domestic politics.
In short, nations like the USA come in the full knowledge that any agreements will always be subservient to whatever is happening in their domestic politics. And in the wake of the recent US mid-term elections, Cancun will not have a marked impact, if any at all, upon the US domestic political scene.
On the other hand small frontline and vulnerable nations like Kiribati look to the international community, less than domestic politics, to deliver the outcomes they need when it comes to climate change.
It's like we have a giant swing but no roundabout.
So this provides us with a political dilemma, wrapped in an enigma tied up in irony. The large industrialised states who are the biggest emitters are impacted the least by climate change and thus are impacted most conservatively by their domestic considerations. The opposite is true for the poorest, who emit the least yet are impacted the most and who rely on forums like this to assist them as they help themselves.
The missing ingredient is true authentic leadership in the multilateral interest, not just the narrow national interests of nation states. Sitting here today that seems a long way off.
However, when we take the long-term view there will inevitably be a convergence of domestic political priorities aligning with binding outcomes on climate change that eventually will emerge from global gatherings such as this one.
This change is coming at all of us, it just hits the vulnerable first. The world urgently needs a mobilising vision that will cement the desire for change, convert businesses and corporations to see their bottom lines as stagnating in the status quo, and major emitting nations to understand that unless they move, they are stealing the future from their grandchildren.
For Kiribati the future has arrived already. They know only too well that all politics is not local.
If we look at the world through the eyes of those whose homes, families, hopes' loves, ancestors and futures are on the small atoll states of the Pacific, let's hope the leadership the globe will need is not too late in coming.
No overall emissions deal is expected here before the talks between the 193 treaty nations wrap up on Friday.However, the ground work is being done to lay some foundations to reach agreements on such issues as a "green fund" of $100 billion a year by 2020. Financed by richer nations, the fund would support poorer nations in converting to cleaner energy sources and in adapting to a shifting climate that may damage people's health, agriculture and economies in general.
Parallel to the official inter-governmental conference here in Cancun is the formal NGO conference KlimaForm - being held at a conference centre two hours outside of Cancun. Here at the KlimaForm event is where side-event presentations are scheduled though which the real diversity of the climate debate can be aired among all COP16 delegates - both governmental, non-governmental amidst the throngs of media.
Today our Pacific Calling Partnership (PCP) presented the first of our side-events on this year's COP16 Program: a celebration of the richness of the unique Kiribati culture. The PCP team of Clare Anterea, Toani Benson and Maria Tiimon ably supported by Jill Finanne and Geraldine Kearney took the two hour bus trip to the site of KlimaForm to lead this presentation featuring Kiribati song and dance.
The I-Kiribati members of our group had the assembled COP16 delegates on their feet joining in the singing of traditional Kiribati music and even managed to get the assembled throng of predominantly North Americans, Mexican and Europeans dancing as well.
The presentation was a practical and moving example of the richness of Kiribati culture, any loss of which, would be a loss not just for Kiribati but for the whole planet.
And that's why it is important to be here!
Pelenise Alofa is a member of the Pacific Calling Partnership. She was part of the PCP delegation to the COP15 Summit in Copenhagen. Watch below this interview that Pelenise gave to the Adopt a Negotiator program.
The paper compares North America with East Africa across four impact types — economic loss, habitat loss, human health and extreme weather impacts.
In the U.S. and Canada, habitat loss increases significantly, but all other impact types remain constant. Africa starts out worse, and gets far worse with mortality doubling while habitat and economic losses quadruple.
DARA director Ross Mountain tries to put these findings in perspective:
If we let pressures more than triple, or worse, no amount of humanitarian assistance or development aid is going to stem the suffering and devastation. Highly fragile countries will become graveyards over which we pour billions of dollars. Low-lying islands (like Kiribati) will simply not be viable anymore, then disappear.More findings:
However there is some good news amidst the sobering reality that is beginning to emerge here. The report concludes with 50 measures that governments can begin implementing right now to stave off the worst impacts.
The crunch, of course, is that this action must begin now. There is no waiting to be had.
We are the most vulnerable countries in the world but the least polluters. At this moment we are facing the end of history for some of us. We are going to be the first human species endangered in the 21st century. We are going to be in danger of going extinct. Imagine someone in the sea with their head just above the surface.
Last year as the people gathered and froze in queues outside the Bella Centre in Copenhagen and hope froze on the inside, a number of unexpected voices cut through the cold and gloom of the weather and the proceedings. Think Ian Fry of Tuvalu and the President of the Maldives.
This year the UNFCCC's global caravan has moved onto Cancun, and amid the heat and the eternal shuttle buses, voices of those with most to lose deserve attention, and are cutting through. Ambassador Antonio Lima from Cape Verde is spokesperson for the 43 nations of AOSIS, the Asociation of Small Island States, which includes nations like Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Maldives. He is an eloquent and direct communicator.
Yesterday he could not have been clearer when he said that said the Copenhagen Accord's target of limiting global temperature increase to 2C, (AOSIS wants 1.5C) would condemn many small island states to be the first 'collateral damage' of the 21st century. Simply, a reduction of two degrees would still see sea levels rise significantly. Countries will go under at that rate.
Most major industrialised nations here believe a 1.5C reduction is impossible because of the reductions in global emmissions it would necessitate immediately. They are not prepared to do it and in the case of the USA in the wake of the mid-terms probably too bogged in domestic politics to work out how to try. Obama is not the Obama of a year ago.
Yet as was reported here yesterday the temperature has already risen by 0.7C 2010 making it one of the two hottest years on record.
Which means the world faces a dilemma here. Mr Lima said: "The difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees is to survive or collapse. If you ask us to accept this, it's for you to ask me to put my country in a desperate situation."
At the very least to ensure Cancun does not follow Copenhagen and become 'Cancan't', the AOSIS nations need urgent resources to adapt, as the recent Ambo Declaration called for. The establishment of an insurance fund is being debated here as part of a compromise, under which the world's major economies would acknowledge the increased risk to island nations, but help them access funding in the event of disaster. It may well be a start but it doesn't look like a solution, because disasters in Kiribati and places like it are happening now, albeit slowly but on a relentles and daily grinding basis.
Ultimately though, leaders like Ambassador Lima and President Tong of Kiribati will not compromise their countries existence away. This will be the test of Cancun: to provide some sort of justice in terms of real resources so others can simply survive. The jury is out.
A good intervention today from the Kiribati Government - as outlined in this description. The insights on adaptation issues - especially towards the end - are particularly valuable.
The following is taken from the climate change website of the Government of Kiribati
Kiribati President Anote Tong is to chair a significant side-event here at COP16
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Cancun, Mexico, 2 December 2010—If there is one figure most dedicated to climate change issues in the pacific region, it would be none other than the President of Kiribati, His Excellency Anote Tong.
58 year-old President Tong has emerged as both a global leader in Ocean Conservation and an outspoken speaker on the issue of global warming… all in the interest of ensuring the ultimate survival of the one hundred thousand people of his drowning nation, Kiribati.
He has attracted international attention by warning that his country may become uninhabitable by the 2050s and he has every reason to.
His nation, a country where you can literally throw a stone from one side of the island to the other is only two-meters above the sea. The rising sea levels and saltwater intrusion to the island’s fresh water system unquestionably explains President Tong’s dedication to this cause.
He has devised a ‘merit-based migration’ plan that will prepare his people not to become refugees but to relocate with dignity if the time comes and, has gifted the world with a marine park so massive in size to complement his vision for creating a Pacific Oceanscape.
“Earlier at the UN General Assembly I was bitter with disappointment at the international community for not listening. But then it became clear that if we made a contribution this large, it was also a statement on our part. So, this is a significant contribution to the world community in the hope they would also act.” President Tong said.
Ahead of the high-level segment of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP16 meeting in Cancun next week, President Tong has responded to the invitation by UNFCCC Chief, Ms Christiana Figueres to Chair the UN-wide Side Event on Adaptation.
“Given the very active and continued role that President Tong has had on adaptation, he has earnestly considered the invitation to be of importance to Kiribati and given the vitally essential issues of adaptation in the country in relation to the adverse impacts of climate change, he (President Tong) has confirmed his keenness in chairing this important side event.” Secretary, Office of the President— Mr. Tangitang Kaureata told RMAT.
President Tong and his Secretary will be arriving in Cancun to attend the high-level segment of the COP16 climate talks just in time for this UN-wide side event on Adaptation which is scheduled for Wednesday, 8 December 2010.
Under the umbrella of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination which is headed by the UN Secretary General, the UNFCCC is entrusted to convene this side event on the afternoon of Wednesday, 8 December, 13:20—14:40 local time, in Room Mamey, at the Cancun Messe.
As mentioned in the invitation letter to President Tong… “the side event intends to showcase some of the work being undertaken by members of the United Nations system to support adaptation in developing countries, with a view to demonstrating that the United Nations stands ready to provide the support required to implement enhanced adaptation actions within a new climate regime.”
The event has already attracted key speakers such as Ms. Helen Clark—Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, Mr. Michael Jarraud—Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization, and Ms. Margareta Wahlström—Assistant Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Special Representative of the Secretary General for the implementation of the Hyogo, Framework for Action, among other Heads of UN Agencies due to confirm their participation.
Greetings all from Cancun,
I thought I might take the opportunity to pen a few thoughts on what's been happening here.
This years 'Conference of the Parties' (hence the COP acronym) has learnt a few lessons from Copenhagen and has two sites. There seem to be more police and military than outside the White House on 9/11.There seem to be nearly as many guns here as in Kabul. The security arrangements mean that all delegates are bussed 45 minutes out of Cancun to a warehouse-like massive Conference Centre structure called Cancun Messe for registration and daily security clearance.
The Cancun Messe Conference Centre is the venue for all side events, press conferences, base for media and NGO activity. Then - it is another 15 minute shuttle ride on another bus to the Moon Palace Resort, a gigantic monstrosity of a 'resort' built for large, loud and overpaid first-world vacationers to holiday without seeing a local, save for the pool guy, cleaners and bar staff.
In morning traffic the combined journey to the venues can take over 2 hours. So whereas Copenhagen tried to cram 45,000 delegates into a venue built to house 15,000 - Cancun is trying to wear everybody down in a transportational war of attrition. They're gonna bus the punters into the ground! We could be the first people to face death by bus! This is no doubt also an attempt to control media and NGO's and avoid some of the stunts that dominated early coverage of Copenhagen. But fair dinkum the UN must have a Basil Fawlty organising logistics somewhere in the upper echelons, or at least a gaggle of John Cleese fans.
On the substantive front we have three side events coming up. One featuring Clare Anterea on Sunday at a film festival, and our own full events on Monday and Thursday next week. The Kiribati Government asked last night if they could participate in our Thursday event, which is good.
I had a long meeting with their delegation here yesterday and they are very enthusiastic about the campaign idea as prepared by Paul Harmon, the idea of Kiribati being the 'line in the sand' for the world on climate change. We continued the discussion at last night's opening reception for 5,000 of the UN's closest friends (all food and drink free would you believe, which had most Third World delegates heads spinning as they watched most of their combined nations' GDP's being downed by the Europeans in margheritas alone). God knows what the bill was. So our relationship with the Kiribati team is very good. The President arrives here next Tuesday and we have been invited to two dinners with him and the delegation on Wednesday and Thursday evenings. That will when we put the campaign ideas to him.
The group are preparing the side events today and tomorrow. Jill and I are negotiating with the US Consulate in Merida (three hours away) in order to get Maria a transit visa for the 90 minutes she has to spend in the Los Angeles airport in order for her to get home. This will ultimately involve us getting her to Merida for an appointment, an interview and $60. It will take at least a day. The American response to the world really is appalling. They think they are the only ones here.
On a positive note from the Americans, their lead negotiator has come out last night and called for a global climate fund to assist vulnerable countries (which was the first call from the Tarawa Conference). Albeit the primary reason he gave was to protect American industry - seems a range of US businesses have found that increasing drought and global warming has impacted on food and agricultural stocks, which in turn has hit US profit margins. I think it's called the smell of enlightened self-interest in the morning! Lousy morality but US support for a global fund would not be a bad thing. Still it leaves a somewhat sour taste in the mouth.
Australia made a similar call yesterday morning in the plenary and mentioned the need for action for vulnerable states at the front line. This is very heartening and a development from where we positioned ourselves at Copenhagen. However, there's a fair way to go here and things may change when the pressure heats up next week.
So there you have it folks from Cancun, where the hotel strip these days looks more and more like Dubai by the sea.
Best wishes and love to all
Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme
Climate Pasifika blog
Delegation departs Sydney for COP16 UN climate summit in Cancun, Mexico
Vulnerable states such as Kiribati and Tuvalu deserve a fair hearing and immediate access to promised resources.’
ERC's Phil Glendenning
Speaking today on his departure from Sydney to attend this month's UN climate change summit in Cancun, Mexico, Mr Glendenning gave voice to the needs of low-lying communities who are already dealing with the impacts of climate change.
“What these people need now out of the COP16 climate summit in Cancun is an urgent package of assistance which gives them help on the ground in a practical way.” he said.
The Cancun COP16 summit follows on from past international meetings in Bali in 2008 and Copenhagen in 2009 in an effort to shape a new binding international treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
“The Kyoto Protocol expires in December 2012 so Cancun is key to reaching a new global pact to reduce greenhouse emissions. Part of what is on the table in Cancun is funding for mitigation and adaptation programs in those countries that are most vulnerable,” Mr Glendenning affirmed.
“The role of COP16 in Cancun - as opposed to Copenhagen - is for the vulnerable states to be assisted in a practical way rather than the political-scientific route which does nothing to change what is happening in their homelands now.”
Mr Glendenning will participate in the Cancun summit as one of six participants of the Pacific Calling Partnership (PCP), an ERC initiative working for the past five years to promote knowledge of and action with the people of low-lying Pacific Island communities who are most threatened by the effects of climate change. PCP delegations, with representation both from Australia and from the affected low-lying Pacific Island communities, have participated in the past UN Climate summits COP14 in Bali and COP15 in Copenhagen.
“Vulnerable states such as Kiribati and Tuvalu deserve a fair hearing and immediate access to promised resources.”
We were present and witnessed Australia sign the ‘Ambo Declaration’ at the recent Tarawa Climate Change Conference in Kiribati. We now therefore, call on the Australian Government to stand by that commitment by speaking out in support of vulnerable nations when the Declaration is presented in Cancun.”
At the invitation of the Kiribati Government, Phil Glendenning and ERC's Jill Finnane, represented PCP as official observers at the Tarawa Climate Change Conference earlier this month. [Jill Finnane's reflections on this conference can be read on the ERC website: www.erc.org.au ] Ambo is the name of the village where the Kiribati Parliament meets.
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Fact-sheets on key issues:
ERC initiative the Pacific Calling Partnership promotes awareness of the devastating effects of climate change on low-lying island communities of the Pacific. The PCP campaign goes beyond both the science and the spin to make evident 'the human face of climate change'.
Update: ERC Director, Phil Glendenning, recently returned to Australia from Afghanistan after 10 days interviewing returned asylum seekers again in Kabul.
ERC is redoubling our efforts to find a third-country resettlement option for those returnees from Australia with whom we have been able to make contact. We need financial support to achieve this.
Such work uncovers high levels of risk for the deportees (and for our researchers). Research publications are available here.
Listen to Phil speak of the visit to ABC Radio National's Phillip Adams.
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