Vanuatu daily news digest | Marshall Islands Minister on Climate ChangePosted: July 20, 2014
From the Guardian a week ago, and very interesting …
Saturday 12 July 2014
Ministers and diplomats from countries responsible for 80% of the world’s Co2 pollution were gathered around a table in Paris on Friday and Saturday to discuss the contours of a new global climate treaty, due to be signed here in less than 18 months’ time. A handful of other countries, including the Marshall Islands, will join them. We are here not because of the volume of our emissions, but because of the vulnerability of our existence.
For atoll island countries like mine lying less than two metres above the rising oceans, the ambition and architecture of the new agreement will play a big part in determining whether our countries survive into the second half of the century. It is quite simply a matter of life or death.
A draft of the new agreement is due to be tabled at the annual climate conference in Lima later this year. As our December 2015 deadline for Paris edges closer, the pace of climate diplomacy has intensified, and a flood of new reports has warned of the extreme risks of a warmer world, and helped to map out the steady decarbonization of the world economy that is necessary to avoid them. Thankfully, the message overall is a positive one: we have the tools and technology to do it. Now we need the leadership and political will to make it happen.
The horizon ahead is full of opportunities. This September, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon will call world leaders together in New York to discuss climate change for the first time since Copenhagen in 2009. It will not only be an opportunity to announce “bold new actions” that edge us closer towards a peak in global emissions, but also to accelerate progress towards the Paris treaty. As my president wrote last week, “bringing leaders together at the 11th hour didn’t work last time, but this time we have an opportunity to get on the same page a year in advance.”
Preparations are on track, and the politics are much better this time as well. In the days leading up to this week’s Major Economies Forum meeting in Paris, China and the US – by far the world’s two biggest emitters – put climate change at the top of the agenda for their strategic and economic dialogue in Beijing, something few would have thought possible just a few years ago.
No two countries can do more to reduce global emissions when working together. And the G2, as the world’s two superpowers are sometimes called, must lead the pack by bringing forward their post-2020 emission reduction commitments for the Paris agreement in the first quarter of next year.
It is important that they do this in early 2015 for two reasons. First, if the big polluters move early, the rest have the confidence to follow, and the critical mass for a strong deal will emerge. Second, we need to understand what the big emitters’ pledges add up to well before Paris so that adjustments can be made, if necessary, to get us on track to avoiding dangerous climate change.
There is wide acceptance of the need for a “sunshine period”, which will allow for a peer review of proposed commitments before they are locked in. For vulnerable countries like mine, “not enough” will never be seen as “good enough”. If we have all agreed to limit warming to below 2C, then we need to see the action to match.
A second issue causing great concern for the world’s island states and least developed countries are proposals that the first round of commitments under the Paris treaty should take us all the way from 2020 through to 2030. In effect, we would be using the 2015 agreement to set targets for some 15 years away, potentially locking in low ambition and putting the below-2C goal out of reach.
In our view, we need more frequent opportunities to ratchet-up and accelerate efforts, both individually and collectively. New science and the increasing costs imposed by climate impacts drive public concern, and with it political pressure for stronger action. So next year, we should use the latest science and projections to set commitments out to 2025, and then come back to the table towards the end of this decade to set targets for 2030, and all step forward together again. Already, the US has said it is attracted to this shorter five-year cycle, and it would chime with China’s five-year economic plans as well.
Last but certainly not least, our new agreement must create a vision for a safe climate future. As the IPCC has told us, we need global emissions to approach zero by the middle of this century. In other words, national policies, and public and private sector investment decisions, must be based on the premise that the fossil fuel era is coming to an end, and the renewables revolution is here to stay. We must build this understanding into our negotiations, our leaders must say it in New York, and our Paris treaty must say it as well.
I’ve been a politician long enough to know that politics is the art of the possible, and that negotiation requires compromise. But on some things, like the future of my country, compromise is not an option. As I will say today to the big emitters meeting in Paris, the agreement we sign here next year must be nothing less than an agreement to save my country, and an agreement to save the world.
• Tony de Brum is minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of the Marshall Islands