Officials gathering in Samoa for the Pacific Small Islands States (PSIDS) preparatory meeting for the 28th UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP28) are adamant.
They say the big greenhouse gas emitting countries must be held accountable and pay for the impacts climate change continues to inflict on lives in Pacific countries that are least responsible for the climate crisis.
“To the world’s biggest emitters, if there are pledges you have made and committed to, then front up with those pledges, don’t just make those pledges for the sake of a political promise,” said Felicia Talagi, of Niue.
Pepetua Latasi, of Tuvalu, agrees and pointed out that time is critical.
“Tuvalu is a low lying atoll, it’s flat and there are no mountains so the impacts we are already facing, which the IPCC has already scientifically supported and reflected, are becoming more severe,” she said. “We don’t have the luxury of time because the adverse impact of of climate change are worsening every day.”
Talagi and Latasi are among officials engaged in the PSIDS Preparatory Meeting for the UNFCCC COP28 in Samoa. Held at SPREP’s Vailima headquarters from 10-13 October 2023, the meeting is a chance to finalise the Pacific’s positions and messaging on priority thematic areas such as Mitigation, Just Transition, Adaptation, Finance, Ocean, Loss and Damage, Global Stocktake (GST), Gender, Article 6, Transparency, Capacity Building and Technology and Agriculture, ahead of COP28.
The gathering, and the build up to COP28, is taking place as record temperatures are being recorded all over the world and climate impacts felt in unprecedented wildfires, floods, storms, droughts and other extreme weather events. Filimone Tuivanualevu, of Fiji reiterated that Pacific communities are at the forefront of the negative impacts of climate change.
“It only makes sense that we are present at COP28 to voice our concerns and be part of the discussions at this global platform which discusses critical issues around climate change,” he said.
Climate finance is one of the critical issues. Climate finance refers to local, national or transnational financing—drawn from public, private and alternative sources of financing—that seeks to support mitigation and adaptation actions that will address climate change. The UNFCC Convention, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement call for financial assistance from Parties with more financial resources to those that are less endowed and more vulnerable.
Talagi, who works as the Director of Project Management Coordination Unit, Niue’s Ministry of Infrastructure’s Department of Utilities, believes easy access to climate finance is key to help the Pacific address the long-term and immediate impacts of climate change.
“When we talk about adaptation, mitigation, gender and all our thematic priorities, almost all of them cannot be progressed if we don’t have the financial instruments to be able to operationalise those plans and activities. It is important we continue to fight for streamlining and simplifying accessibility for climate finance for us in the Pacific given that a lot of our countries have limited capabilities and technical capacity.”
Latasi, who is the Director of the Department of Climate Change and Disaster, Government of Tuvalu, concurs. “We live and experience the impacts of climate change on a daily basis and in order for us to progress and live sustainably we have to adapt to those changes and it is why it important for us to engage in adaptation discussions, as well as finance. We need the means of implementation in order for us to be able to build resilience so we can face the impacts of climate change,” said Latasi.
On Day 2 of pre-COP28, all Pacific negotiators and officials share the notion that the meeting happening in Apia is important to prepare PSIDS for the work ahead. COP28 will mark the first Global Stocktake (GST) of the implementation of the Paris Agreement, which aims to assess the world’s collective progress towards achieving its climate goals.
Latasi who has been engaged in climate change negotiations for more than 10 years said seeing the reality of climate impacts on a daily basis means her role as a negotiator in this space has become more of a responsibility rather than a job.
“Over the years, I have learnt so much and my passion to continue to do this work grows stronger the more I see the impacts climate change has on my country and our people,” she said. “What I’ve seen is that although progress is slow in getting decisions that translates to action on the ground but there have been some significant decisions that have been achieved.
“For Tuvalu as we prepare for COP28, we’ve identified a number of key issues and it’s important to note that a lot of these issues are interlinked and interconnected. Mitigation and Just Transition for example are extremely important for a small country with minimal emission but is bearing the brunt of the impacts of climate change. We also have adaption, loss and damage and finance which are issues very close and relevant to us.”
Aside from sharpening the Pacific’s position on key thematic priorities, Talagi, of Niue, said the value of the One Pacific Voice in the global climate change negotiation space cannot be understated.
“As a region, we are stronger together. It is extremely important that we show a united front because the issues we face are not confined to just one country. We need to continue to amplify our one Pacific Voice to let the world know that we are not just going to accept the consequences of the actions of others.”
The message is echoed by Leana William, of Vanuatu and officials gathering in Apia this week. “We must tell the world to fulfill your commitments, and remember we are all humans sharing the same planet. Do what you can to help another human being,” said William.
“It’s important for us as Pacific Islands to have our own space at COP28 through the Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion because we have our own unique context, circumstances, and vulnerabilities. We are different from all other regions, and we have our own stories to tell,” said William.