Talofa from SPREP
November was a momentous month for the region. For the first time since the UNFCCC was adopted in 1992, and entered into force in 1994, there has never been a COP President from a Small Island Developing State, let alone the Pacific. While Pacific Island Countries have played important roles as Vice-Presidents of COP (Samoa, Marshall Islands, PNG, FSM, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu), and Chairmen of committees (Fiji, Marshall Islands, Samoa), to be President of COP is of massive significance. Fiji stated from the outset that this would be a Pacific COP, and islands COP, and far-away, cold Bonn had its International Conference Centre transformed into a Pacific venue, as exemplified by the Talanoa Pavilion and the Fiji Pavilion. It was never going to be an easy task to navigate the differing viewpoints of 197 Parties to the Convention, but Fiji performed admirably and have set the course for its Presidency up until COP24 in 2018 when Poland takes over.
Oceans and climate change had tremendous visibility at COP23, with numerous side events detailing the contributions that oceans make as climate drivers, but also as a greenhouse gas and heat sink. This of course has detrimental impacts on our ecosystems and on sea level rise. Thus Fiji and partner countries launched the Oceans Pathway at COP23 as a means of giving momentum to positive actions that would not only clean up pollution in oceans but also provide added benefits in terms of reducing impacts of climate change.
Work on climate services at the regional level has also accelerated with the rolling out of the PICASO tool in countries. Vanuatu hosted its first training on this important cooperation between the Pacific and the Republic of Korea. There will be similar training carried out in the region in coming months.
COP23 allowed Pacific Island Countries to have an elevated presence and Pacific voices were heard loud and clear. It is now time for Pacific concerns to be acted upon in the negotiations process. As Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga has stated – save Tuvalu, and we save the world.
Espen Ronneber Acting Director, Climate Change Division