Forum Secretary General, Henry Puna

By Pita Ligaiula at COP28 in Dubai, UAE

Forum Secretary General Henry Puna Thursday provided a comprehensive update on the COP28 State of Play during a media briefing in the UAE, emphasising the active engagement of Pacific delegations and negotiators in pre-COP meetings and sessions.

“I am excited to be joining you for this first update from UAE where our Pacific delegations and negotiators have been hard at work for up to a week now in pre-COP meetings and sessions, ahead of the opening plenary today,” said Puna.

Reflecting on the recent endorsement of a record eight Pacific high-level political champions on climate, Puna stressed the ongoing key role of political champions in influencing climate negotiation outcomes.

Pacific political climate champions include –Oceans and climate nexus – Fiji Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, Global Stocktake – Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown, Climate Finance – Tonga Prime Minister, Huákavameiliku, Siaosi Sovaleni,Loss and Damage – Vanuatu Minister of Climate Change Ralph Regenvanu, the Just Transition – Tuvalu Minister of Finance and Climate Change Seve Paeniu, Mitigation – Samoa Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Toesulusulu Cedric Schuster, and Adaptation –Republic of the Marshall Islands(RMI) Minister of Natural Resources and Commerce, John Silk.

He credited the Pacific leaders’ involvement at COP 21 in 2015, leading to the Paris Agreement, as a pivotal moment setting the global agenda for a 1.5-degree Celsius target and a net-zero fossil fuel future.

Puna highlighted the significance of political champions, acknowledging the role recognised by the UNFCCC itself.

He expressed gratitude for the support extended to Pacific high-level political champions during the challenging circumstances of the global pandemic, acknowledging their continued commitment at COP26 and COP27.

Discussing the responsibilities of each champion at COP28, Puna emphasised their mission to drive global support for Pacific realities through interpersonal climate diplomacy and personal networking.

The champions play a crucial role in deepening the understanding of the daily impact of climate change on Pacific nations.

“Our champions will continue the momentum for the 1.5 degrees’ Celsius global temperature goal, noting that we are now seeking an urgent return from overshooting that limit,” stated Puna.

He addressed concerns raised by the UN Secretary-General’s recent visit to Antarctica, emphasising the common humanity and shared vulnerability of Pacific islands to climate impacts.

In addressing adaptation, Puna stressed the urgency for predictable and grant-based financing, particularly for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and regional financing windows.

He highlighted the need to operationalise COP27 decisions on Loss and Damage and advance the Just Transition to a low-carbon future.

Puna touched upon various aspects of the 2050 strategy implementation plan, including technology, gender, and social inclusion, recognising the ocean climate nexus. Expressing gratitude to COP28 political climate champions, he extended special thanks to each champion, acknowledging their roles in Oceans and climate nexus, Global Stocktake, Climate Finance, Loss and Damage, Just Transition, Mitigation, and Adaptation.

Puna also welcomed the Pacific High-level climate champion for Gender and Social Inclusion, Niue Minister of Natural Resources, Mona Ainu’u, and youth climate champion Metoyer Lohia, emphasising that their leadership depends on the decisions finalised at COP28.

He stressed the critical importance of decisions made at COP28, impacting the thriving or survival of those like Lohia in the future.