Despite contributing very little to the causes of climate change, Pacific communities are at the immediate forefront of impacts of the escalating climate crisis.

For this reason, Pacific leaders have declared a climate emergency for the region and continue to advocate for much stronger global ambition to keep 1.5C alive, a robust Global Stocktake (GST) to bring course correction, the phasing out of fossil fuels and for financial mechanisms to better respond to the needs of Pacific communities.

For the next two weeks, more than 300 delegates from Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) are expected to descend upon Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP28), from Thursday 30 November 2023 until Tuesday 12 December 2023.

They will join more than 70,000 participants, including Heads of State, government leaders and officials, industry leaders, private sector representatives, academics, experts, youth, and non-state actors as they continue to chart a pathway for global efforts to address climate change.

COP28 is taking place at a time when humanity is breaking all the wrong records on climate change. According to the 2023 edition of the Emissions Gap Report, greenhouse gas emissions and the global average temperature are hitting new highs, while extreme weather events are occurring more often, developing faster and becoming more intense.

For PSIDS, this compounds conditions that threaten their very existence. Vanuatu for example has had to deal with three devastating cyclones within a year. The IPCC, in its AR6 Synthesis Report, noted that above a global temperature rise of 1.5°C, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) regions face impacts which may be irreversible.

PSIDS Chair and Republic of Palau representative, Xavier Matsutaro, said Pacific leaders and delegates have a very important role to advocate for the Pacific’s needs in a wide ranging and ever-growing global forum like COP28.

“We are here to fight for our survival,” he said. “This is why we do what we do, we are here to advocate for what is best for our people and our communities. Our leaders, our delegates, our negotiators must be bold to do this with passion, dedication and commitment.”

Before departing for COP28, Pacific countries with support from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) engaged in a pre-COP28 meeting held in Apia. There, they identified their thematic priorities: Mitigation, Just Transition, Adaptation, Climate Finance, Ocean, Loss and Damage, Global Stocktake (GST), Gender, Article 6, Transparency, Research and Systematic Observation, Capacity Building and Technology and Agriculture.

The priorities are integral components of the COP28 agenda, where the focus be on the completion of the first Global Stocktake (GST) under the 2015 Paris Agreement, operationalising the funding arrangements for Loss and Damage, a new collective quantified goal (NCQG) on climate finance, and the global goal on adaptation, among other items.

“For COP28, the Global Stocktake and climate finance will be two of the biggest issues,” Matsutaro, who chaired the PSIDS pre-COP28 meeting, said. “The GST will force the global community to look in the mirror, and they will realise that there is so much more that needs to be done. Across the board, the world is behind in terms of our goals and aspirations to address climate change, so we need this GST to get an idea of how bad it is.”

The President-Designate for COP28 UAE, Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, agrees.

“At COP21 in 2015, the world agreed to limit global warming to 1.5°C compared to pre-industrial levels by 2050,” Dr Al Jaber said in his welcome message. “To remain on target, science tells us that emissions must be halved by 2030. We only have another seven years to meet that goal. COP28 UAE is a prime opportunity to rethink, reboot, and refocus the climate agenda.”

The Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Inger Andersen reiterated that the latest Emissions Gap Report from UNEP finds that current pledges under the Paris Agreement put the world on track for a 2.5-2.9°C temperature rise above pre-industrial levels this century, pointing to the urgent need for increased climate action.

“Countries with greater capacity and responsibility for generating emissions will need to take more ambitious action and provide financial and technical support to developing nations. Low- and middle-income countries, which already account for more than two-thirds of global emissions, must meet their legitimate development needs and aspirations with low-emission growth trajectories,” she said. “Essentially, the longer we wait, the harder it’s going to be. The world needs to lift the needle out of the groove of insufficient action and begin setting new records on cutting emissions, green and just transitions and climate finance – starting now.”

SPREP’s Director General, Sefanaia Nawadra, reiterated the need for urgent and ambitious climate action.

“Our Pacific Leaders have continued to declare that climate change and resilience is a standing regional priority for the Blue Pacific continent, in recognition of the fact that climate change is the single greatest threat to the livelihood, security, and well-being of Pacific people,” he said.

“COP28 is another opportunity to advance the Pacific’s fight for survival and to amplify our One Pacific Voice on the global stage.”

The 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP28) in Dubai, UAE is taking place from Thursday 30 November 2023 – Tuesday 12 December 2023.

It is being attended by Pacific leaders and their delegations, who are advocating for the survival of Pacific communities who continue to be at the forefront of climate change impacts.