The voice of vulnerable Pacific nations that are directly affected by climate change is gaining strong and political attention at the global level, says the Fijian Ambassador to the European Union in Brussels, Ambassador Deo Saran.
Speaking at a climate conference in the United Kingdom centred on the impact of climate change on Pacific states, Ambassador Saran said Fiji’s own presidency of the COP, the largest ongoing UN negotiations on climate change, has steered climate discussions towards realising the vulnerability of these States and placing this issue prominently on the global agenda.
“The Pacific island states are in a stronger position than ever with regard to the negotiations over climate change. Our voice is getting stronger, and our influence is growing. Built on recent years of hard work the very fact that a Pacific island nation, a Small Island Developing State and a climate-vulnerable state-held the presidency gave us all an opportunity we never had before. Finally, after 25 years, the Pacific islands were at the very forefront of the discussions. The risks we face were laid bare as never before. The focus on limiting warming to 1.5 degrees was unprecedented. The vital connection of ocean health and climate change was put under the spotlight”, Ambassador Saran said.
The event, organised by the Governments of New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the Pacific Islands Forum, was an opportunity to raise global awareness of the impacts of climate change in the Pacific, highlighting Pacific’s priorities. It also captured a range of perspectives to drive a wider global debate that is textured and informed by Pacific experiences. Ambassador Saran highlighted that despite the impacts of climate change in the Pacific, island nations are stepping up their own efforts to address these impacts.
“We were not just victims; we were proposing solutions and demanding action, and the world was listening. The spotlight was on us, and we embraced it boldly and eagerly. The Marshall Islands took leadership in the Climate Vulnerable Forum and stepped forward early to commit to a more ambitious NDC. Fiji followed suit. We have both launched 2050 strategies for net zero emission economies and said to the world “if we can do it, so can you.” All of us were active and positively engaged in every step of this process, and we should all be very proud. As I said, we must always do more, prove ourselves more. But that is also the price of leadership.”
“As President of COP23 our role was to build consensus and move the process of turning the Paris Agreement into action forward. We could not be aggressive advocates of any position in the process and remain faithful to that mission, but we could speak out and build coalitions in support. And we could use a Pacific tradition-Talanoa to create an environment in which we could seek solutions together rather than engage in zero-sum negotiations.”
Sharing perspectives on the outcome of COP24, Ambassador Saran said that Fiji appreciates that substantial progress has been made in different key areas including climate finance.
He added that the outcome of COP24 has also given full recognition “to the need for the enhanced ambition of developing countries to be enabled through the urgently scaled-up provision of finance, technology and capacity-building support by developed countries, while also continuing work on the raising of ambition before 2020.”
This event Forum brought together approximately 60 senior Pacific and international leaders, diplomats, policy makers, experts, practitioners, academics and civil society representatives from the Pacific Islands, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.