Saturday, 8 October 2011

Interview with SPREP's Climate Change Adviser, Espen Ronnerberg


Espen Ronnerberg, SPREP’s Climate Change Adviser has been exclusively following adaptation negotiations here in Panama. Here are his comments on the outcome of the adaptation negotiations.
Espen Ronnerberg
Ronnerberg:  After one week of talks here, we have resolved a lot of issues on adaptation. There are still a few issues that need to be fixed up and activities for the adaptation work to be decided on. But at least we have a draft text and we know what we will be dealing with. It’s a lot easier for us to prepare for Durban, at least on adaptation. We also resisted a suggestion to try and link everything together but we decided to move ahead with the positive spirit now adopted here in Panama. It’s a positive signal to other areas of negotiations here where I understand have been facing a lot of resistance from some Parties. We have to keep the big picture in mind. 

Q; So a draft text on adaptation is ready to be taken to Durban?
Ronnerberg: We will have a draft text decision presented at the plenary. Off course we never know for sure what can happen at the plenary, somebody may object but at least the working group has approved the draft decision text, for further negotiations off course. There are a number of key areas that have not been fully resolved but what we have done is clarify some of the underlying issues – the methods of work for the committee and the functions. Now that this is clear, we can all quickly look at the actual activities that the adaptation committee will be undertaking. What will be their short term tasks after Durban and what will be their long term tasks. And having that clarity in the discussion makes it a lot easier to push for things that are important for the region.

Q: What is going to be the work of this adaptation committee?
Ronnerberg: The adaptation committee is an advisory committee group aiming at improving the delivery of adaptation action at the national level. So it will be doing that particularly through guidelines to the finance committee, guidelines to the countries on how to form their plans and programmes and also to develop a yearly report on the state of adaptation work, which will then give us as Parties, information that we can utilise to direct financing to a particular region or to a particular sector because it will give us an overview of what is actually happening. If we can identify that some countries are not getting some assistance or some sectors aren’t getting any help, ten we take remedial action to address that. We need to have this logical framework that we can work with and hopefully the proposed adaptation committee will be able to do that. It’s a welcome that we are getting this committee now.

Q: Apart from some good progress in adaptation, other issues don’t seem to enjoy the same level of progress in the talks here.
Ronnerberg: It is positive that we are making some progress in some areas we do need to step back and look at what the overall package look like for us. For example we may have a good framework developed for adaptation but if the resources are not going to be forthcoming, then it is not much of a victory. Similarly we need a lot of capacity building in the region so the eventual decision relating to capacity building will also have to be taken into account. We need to step back a bit and reflect on what we have on the table and see where we need to do more work and where we need to put more pressure.

Interview with Solomon Islands Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Colin Beck


The resumed climate change talks in Panama has recorded some progress in the lead up to the 17th Conference of the Parties in Durban, South Africa in December. While little progress has been made, the Pacific is happy with movement of a number of issues important for the region. Ambassador Colin Beck, Solomon Islands Permanent Representative to the United Nations explains to PACNEWS Editor and Climate Pasifika Journalist, Makereta Komai.

Ambassador Colin Beck (right) with Solomon Islands delegate, Chanel Iroi
Ambassador Beck: I think there is some progress made here in Panama considering what happened in Bonn and Bangkok. There was some progress in Bangkok on the Convention. The Cancun decisions left out some of the Bali Acton Plan, so it required just a whole session to go through what has been agreed in Cancun and what has been left out. Here in Panama we built on that work left out in Bangkok. Some texts have been produced here but I describe the talks here as ‘baby steps’ in the Kyoto Protocol.
On finance, there is also some movement on the draft text. Depending on where one looks at it, there is progress but it’s not even across the board. Certainly one of the most important aspects is the refusal by some Parties not to take a second commitment period. Disappointing is an understatement to say the least. It’s a concern to the Pacific and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and something that what we have said in Cancun is ‘an attack on multilateralism.’ If we believe in multilateralism then we must work on it. I think we should not use multilateralism at our convenience and discard it when it does not suit our interest.

Q: If that is the case, where consensus is hard to achieve, should voting be considered to get results? I learnt that Mexico is considering this option and canvassing Parties views.
Ambassador Beck: I think the issue of voting has always been on the table. If we vote right now, we can win because G77 and China have the number. We might win the vote but lose the battle on climate change and that is why need all the 194 Parties to support a global climate regime that is legally binding. Consensus is important. While off course we have voting at the back of our mind, the question is when do we apply it and in what area do we wish to use it? But I think there is some consideration on the issue. In the past, the rules of procedures have not been formally applied but i think it stems from the Annex 1 countries on finance when it was earlier looked at but things have changed and evolved.

Q: Even with the difficulty of getting a consensus, is voting the best option given that Parties have not been able to agree to an agreement, from Copenhagen to Cancun and then onto Durban?
Ambassador Beck: Everything that the UNFCCC has done has always been by consensus. Like I said, we can easily vote on second commitment and win but what do we do with those who do not wish to take that second commitment. How do we deal with them? Unless the vote is mandatory, then you will need to comply. This is similar to the United Nations where decisions by the General Assembly are not legally-binding, only resolutions by the Security Council are mandatory and legally binding.
Secondly, we might be politicising the issues at hand. If voting is done, it will take a lot of issues away from the hands of negotiators. Diplomatic pressures will be placed on capitals to vote and the job of negotiators will be just be like ‘pressing the button.’

Q: Back to Japan – what are its reasons for not committing to a second commitment period. How is it justifying its decision?
Ambassador Beck: I think the unfortunate aspect is that Japan has not said anything and is burning its bridges with so many countries. Sometimes silence does not mean we accept everything that Japan is doing. In the Pacific this week, coast guards are trying to ship water to Tokelau and NZ trying to assist Tuvalu. What we did in Copenhagen, we battered multilateralism. Trust and confidence was restored in Cancun but it remains fragile if Durban will not be able to deliver on a number of issues, especially the second commitment period, and multilateralism will take another hit.

Q: Mitigation remains a sore point here, any movement or middle ground achieved?
Ambassador Beck: There are talks of trying to increase the ambition level of the current pledges on the table. I think negotiators have presented options to Ministers to consider in Durban. Personally, I think a lot of these issues require no political decisions because if we say that what we do is driven by science, then we must all act and keep our temperatures lower.  An important issue for Small Island Developing States is the Review of the below 2 degrees by 2015. This is something the IPCC will be releasing its report in 2014. We are hoping that report will be out in time to have a decision going forward by 2015.

Q: So that means for now until 2015, industrialised nations will not have to adhere to the below 2 degrees goal?
Ambassador Beck: At the moment, it’s not even 2 degrees. It keeps on increasing beyond 2 degrees. We are trying first of all to maintain it to below 2 degrees as agreed in Cancun, with a view to reviewing it to see how close are on science on whether 2 degrees is sufficient

 Q: Is 2015 okay for AOSIS?
Ambassador Beck: AOSIS wants to see a procedural discussion in Durban and then a technical study at the next COP and a decision taken by 2015. So we should not be seen to be trying to do everything in 2015.

Q: On financing
Ambassador Beck: One of the sticking points was long term financing. During the discussions there have been debates on how the Green Climate Fund will be financed. We want these funds to be operational.

Q:  AOSIS speaks with support of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the African Union (AU). Do you think collective diplomacy works in climate change negotiations?
Ambassador Beck: To get a common voice in multilateral negotiations, we need the numbers. This is where the growing collaboration between small island developing countries and LDCs have really put on the front burner a lot of our issues, otherwise we will be working in isolation. We need to come together to push our agenda. And we find in AOSIS that it has worked in our favour here at the climate change negotiations.

Deadlock on key political issues at Panama climate negotiations threatens success in Durban, says WWF


07 October 2011 Panama --- Governments have failed to make important progress at a crucial preparatory meeting ahead of a major climate change summit in Durban, South Africa next month, according to World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

While the Panama talks, Oct. 1-7, saw some technical areas advance, the key political issues, namely ambitious global emission reduction commitments, the future of the Kyoto Protocol and long-term finance, were left unresolved.

Tasneem Essop, WWF Head of Climate Strategy and Advocacy said the climate change talks are in trouble.

“It appears the lines have hardened on key political issues without much willingness by countries to compromise. There is still so much work to do and now very little time left to do it. Ahead of COP17, heads of state and ministers must urgently resolve these issues in order to lay the foundations for collective action to tackle the climate change crisis.

“In Durban it is essential that countries recommit to the Kyoto Protocol and for all governments to begin formulating a roadmap towards a fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty that prevents the worst consequences of climate change.

“Finance is a key issue for Durban, and for the long-term success of the climate negotiations. The United States is now the main obstacle to constructive discussions on how long-term financial pledges will be met to help the most vulnerable countries cope with increased floods, droughts and sea-level rise. WWF calls on the United States and other governments to make progress on this issue before Durban, or at least to allow others to do so.

“Failure is not an option, but it will become a real possibility if these deadlocked issues are not addressed before COP17.

“A positive outcome in Durban is still within sight, but it will take an all-out sprint to get there. With a surge of political will from country leaders, a path forward is still very possible. Their citizens expect nothing less, said Essop.

Small progress made in Panama climate talks, AOSIS


By Makereta Komai for Climate Pasifika in Panama

07 October 2011 Panama – There is a general agreement here in Panama that some progress has been made in advancing a climate change deal, in whatever form it will take, in Durban in December.

At the conclusion of the last round of climate talks before the 17th Conference of the Parties in South Africa, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) is happy with the draft texts that have emerged from the weeklong negotiations.

“This is critical for securing the future of the international climate regime. We must preserve the multilateral rules-based climate regime to limit greenhouse gas emissions to ensure the survival of small island states and the planet, said AOSIS chair and Grenada’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Dessima Williams. 
Ambassador Dessima Williams, chair of AOSIS
Multilateralism is likely to fail if key Parties in the 194 membership of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will not give political backing to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol.

“Durban could witness the dissolution of the multilateral rules-based process that has been in place for nearly 20 years. We are disappointed that some Parties are reneging on their commitments.

“I can tell you what real progress looks like for AOSIS: Real progress means doing what is required to keep island nations from drowning, famines from spreading, rainforests from burning, and ice caps from melting.

“Real progress is setting emissions targets capable of keeping global warming well below 1.5 degrees Celsius; mobilizing a minimum of $100 billion a year by 2020 to build sustainable energy sources in the developing world and help the most vulnerable countries adapt to the impacts of climate change; agreeing to second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol before it expires in 2012; and finally climate finance must scale up after the end of fast start finance in 2012 to avoid a gap.

“Real progress is doing what is essential to save entire ecosystems, countries, and cultures from destruction and not “just enough” to get us to the next round of meetings, said Ambassador Williams.

Speaking to journalists immediately after the conclusion of Panama talks, United States deputy special envoy on climate change, Dr Jonathan Pershing said even though the U.S is not party to the Kyoto Protocol, ‘It’s uncertainty is a source of anxiety for the future of a global climate change deal.’
Dr. Jonathan Pershing, US lead negotiator on climate change in Panama
“The future of the Kyoto Protocol is relevant to the U.S. We will only undertake any commitment if major economies are part of the global deal that reflects today and tomorrow’s realities and not those of 1992.

“We are encouraged by some of the progress made here in Panama especially some of the negotiating test which we think reflects structured thinking on the Cancun Agreement.

The U.S, Dr Pershing said remains committed to its short and long term climate financing pledged under the Copenhagen and Cancun Agreements.

“Let me make it clear we are not blocking debate on how and where our funds will come from. We are committed to what developed countries promised to mobilise the US$100 billion by 2020.

In response to suggestion of a gap in financing after 2012 when the initial US$30 billion runs out, Dr Pershing said, “I do not see a gap after 2012. This is a collective effort by developed countries and we are committed to raising the long term US$100 billion financing for mitigation and transparency.”

“It will not end in 2013 and the ramp up long term finance to 2020 will be met through public and private financing.”

 The European Union (EU) on the other hand said it wants to see governance issues related to the setting up of the Green Climate Fund is in place before there is discussion on how the fund can be financed.

AOSIS is pushing the Transitional Committee to complete its work on the design of the Green Fund to allow it to be operational by 2012. The group of 43 small island developing states also want a work programme established to identify long term sources of climate change finance.

Here in Panama, ‘good progress’ has been achieved on preparing decisions on adaptation, access to technology, said UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres.
UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres
“The progress made in Panama means that governments can have more time and space in the coming seven weeks and during Durban to resolve those outstanding issues on the future of the global climate change regime which will require political guidance.

“Durban will have to resolve the open question over the future of the Kyoto Protocol and what that means for a future global climate agreement, said Figueres.

At the negotiations, governments retained their different positions but many technical issues have already been brought to conclusion and there is a strong desire from all sides to see a final political decision made, she said.

The UN climate chief said Panama has also made some progress on the longer term question of how governments will meet their agreed goal of limiting global average temperatures to no more than 2 degrees Celsius.

“In Durban, governments will decide on the shape of a formal review between 2013 and 2015, which they agreed in Cancun as a reality check on progress towards their temperature goal.

“Clarity on an effective, credible review is important, especially in light of the fact the sum total of national pledges to reduce global emissions falls 40 percent short of keeping below 2 degrees and that gap will have to be filled in the future, Figueres said.

The 17th Conference of the Parties will convene in Durban from 28 November – 09 December.

U.S moots ‘modernisation’ of UN climate change convention


By Makereta Komai for Climate Pasifika in Panama

06 October 2011 Panama --- The United States has mooted the idea of the ‘modernisation’ of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Dr. Jonathan Pershing, US Deputy Special Envoy for climate change
Now ten years old, the Convention enjoys universal membership of 194 State Parties. The Convention was adopted in 1992 as a basis for global response to climate change. It’s ultimate objective is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.

At the climate talks in Panama City this week, the US argued that as of 2009, nine of the top 20 emitters of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are from developing or non-Annex 1 countries, according to the Third World Network (TWN), a daily publication on climate change negotiations.

While the U.S did not name these countries, it urged the 194 Parties to the Convention to consider ‘graduating’ non-Annex 1 countries.

“The other option would be to eliminate the Annex 1 –non Annex 1 distinction and take more continuum approach. The continuum would apply to common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, reports TWN.

Both India and Philippines criticised the U.S suggestion saying it was clear that emissions of the past, a large part was due to developed countries and that was why there was a differentiation between Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 countries.

The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), whose members fall under the category of non-annex 1 countries disagrees with the U.S position.

AOSIS chair, Ambassador Dessima Williams said under the Convention, Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 countries have different legal obligations.

Developed countries who are historically the cause of the problem have to take obligatory actions under the Conventions.

“Developing countries under the Bali Plan of Action have two points – one, we must focus our priority on poverty eradication, that’s our main obligation. Our second obligation is to move away from business as usual. If you notice, developing countries are doing both.

“We cannot do that – eradicate poverty and disrupt business as usual until and unless we get some support, argued Ambassador Williams.

Most of the debate around the negotiations for the past three years now has been the push by industrialised or Annex 1 countries for major developing nations like Brazil, South Africa, Indian and China, whose global emissions are high to make similar mitigation commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Mitigation targets remain a sore point of the negotiations - AOSIS chair


By Makereta Komai for Climate Pasifika in Panama

06 October 2011 Panama ---- A day before the resumed negotiation session here in Panama concludes, mitigation actions by wealthy nations remains a major sore point of the climate change talks, especially for Pacific Island Countries and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

Climate Pasifika caught up with the chair of AOSIS, Ambassador Dessima Williams Wednesday evening before she went into one of the many informal meetings convened here to try and consolidate positions of Parties before draft decisions are finalised at the end of the weeklong negotiations.
Ambassador Dessima Williams
“AOSIS is working at three levels – within our group we are working to streamline our positions, within G77 we are working to get our positions on board and we are also working on more understanding with Annex 1 and other partners. 

Under the Kyoto Protocol, Annex 1 countries refer to 37 industrialised nations who have committed to reducing their emissions by an average of 5 percent against 1990 levels over a five year period 2008-2012.

While Ambassador Williams was very cautious with her views on the negotiations so far – describing them as ‘slow but positive energy’ there remains huge gaps in the positions of Parties, especially on mitigation targets.

“I think everyone believes the mitigation is very weak. There is some agreement that we cannot have the gap between the second commitment period and the first but not enough parties are convinced yet. 

“I don’t see universal agreement on that yet and that remains a problem. 

“I think AOSIS, the African Group, the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and others are in conversation and are committed to that. We are in conversations with the European Union, the Environment Integrity Group, Australia as chair of the Umbrella Group and we will be meeting with the U.S on Thursday. So there is a sense that everyone is in dialogue. It’s not enough but it’s a starting point, Ambassador Williams explained to Climate Pasifika.

Since the European Union is taking the lead on pushing for a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol (KP), most AOSIS members who also members of the G77 and China group have been meeting with the EU to reiterate their positions to find common grounds.

“We want a KP that is five years (2013-2017), we would like to see real mitigation and not a carry-over of commitments of emissions reduction. There is still some weakness and divisions but we will get there. 

“My point is that within a structure of 190 plus member states, it is very difficult to reach agreements. We have limited and good but insufficient agreements in Cancun and we are now trying to build on them because there are new submissions and that is what is slowing us down.

“I think there is no magic solution and this is a slow multilateralism. But we in AOSIS are clear that we must have a rules based multilateral system that is consistent with our commitment under the Bali Action Plan and almost all delegations agree to that but it is how they want to implement it that is causing the difficulties. 

“Parties are now submitting proposals on how to implement the Bali Plan of Action. Panama is awash with proposals. There are lots and lots of ideas, proposals and texts and that is really where the work is – to see common ground.

She has ruled out any compromises from AOSIS.

In a number of the non-papers and draft text now emerging from the talks, the AOSIS push to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees is reflected but under consideration or bracketed. 

“Everything is on the table. Some of the major emitters in the developing countries are showing flexibility around KP that we haven’t heard before so watch out for that, she told Climate Pasifika. 

Most of the debate around the negotiations for the past three years now has been the push by industrialised or Annex 1 countries for major developing nations like Brazil, South Africa, Indian and China, whose global emissions are high to make similar mitigation commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.

“The legal obligations are different. Developed countries who are historically the cause of the problem have to take obligatory actions under the Conventions. 

“Developing countries under the Bali Plan of Action have two points – one, we must focus our priority on poverty eradication, that’s our main obligation. Our second obligation is to move away from business as usual. If you notice, developing countries are doing both. 

“We cannot do that – eradicate poverty and disrupt business as usual until and unless we get some support, argued Ambassador Williams.

On the expected outcome, Ambassador Williams expects closure to come very late Friday.

“We still have two or three political opportunities to finalise an agreement before Durban. The pre-COP meets in two weeks time and this would be another occasion where what we cannot agree technically here will be discussed politically and fed into the process. 

South Africa has taken the lead in the canvassing the views of the Parties.

“They are leading the way in calling for ambition and providing a space to discuss idea. I think Parties here are impressed and encouraged by South Africa’s initiative. The Mexicans have not pulled back and are also leading the conversations in some areas, especially in the legal form and legal outcomes. However, there are still wide gaps in the negotiations but there are lot of conversations going on now, said Ambassador Williams.

Interview with the Chair of the Alliance of Small Islands States and Grenada’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Dessima Williams.


As negotiations reach the half way mark here in Panama City, the chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) shares her insights about the highs and lows of the negotiations with Makereta Komai, Editor of PACNEWS and Journalist for Climate Pasifika
Ambassador Dessima Williams
Q: It’s now half-way through the negotiations here in Panama, what is your take on the current negotiations so far?
Ambassador Williams: Slow progress but positive energy. I think there is a willingness to use Panama to seriously prepare for Durban. AOSIS is working at three levels – within our group we are working to streamline our positions, within G77 we are working to get our positions on board and we are also working on more common grounds with Annex 1 and other partners. In AOSIS you will find an eagerness for helping Durban be a success. The South Africans are here at many levels, as participants and also as incoming presidency. They are leading the way in calling for ambition and providing a space to discuss idea. I think Parties here are impressed and encouraged by South Africa’s initiative. The Mexicans have not pulled back and are also leading the conversations in some areas, especially in the legal form and legal outcomes. However, there are still wide gaps in the negotiations but there are lot of conversations going on now.

Q: Is that conversation enough, given what you just said about the wide gaps that still exists in the negotiations?
Ambassador Williams: It seems to me the closure comes very late. On Friday, we will see how far we’ve come with the negotiations. We still have two or three political opportunities to finalise an agreement before Durban. The pre-COP meets in two weeks time and this would be another occasion where what we cannot agree technically here will be discussed politically and fed into the process. We have seen some movement amongst G77 partners. I think everyone believes the mitigation is very weak. There is some agreement that we cannot have the gap between the second commitment period and the first but not enough parties are convinced yet. I don’t see universal agreement on that yet and that remains a problem. I think AOSIS, the African Group, the LDCs and others are in conversation and are committed to that. We are working with the European Union. We have had conversations with the Environment Integrity Group, Australia its capacity as chair of the Umbrella Group and we will be meeting with the U.S on Thursday. So there is a sense that everyone is in dialogue. It’s not enough but it’s a starting point.

Q: With only two days, is that enough? The expectation is to get some draft text for Durban at the end of the Panama talks?
Ambassador Williams: The draft text is progressing on the long term co-operative action (LCA) side and we have some text around adaptation, technology transfer, global environment fund (green climate fund). The text is slow in coming but I think we will get there on the building blocks of the LCA. The difficult areas remain with the mitigation.

Q: How can the problem of mitigation can be best resolved?
Ambassador Williams: I think there is no magic solution. This is a slow multilateralism. But I think we are clear that we must have a rules based multilateral system that is consistent with our commitment under the Bali Action Plan and almost all delegations agree to that but it is how they want to implement it that is causing the difficulties. Parties are now submitting proposals and how to implement the Bali Plan of Action. So Panama is awash with proposals. There are lots and lots of ideas, proposals and texts and that is really where the work is – to see common ground. We have a joint consultation between G77 and the European Union on the way forward for a Kyoto Protocol (KP) and we will be taking to them some common positions of our groups We want a KP that is five year, we would like to see real mitigation and not a carry-over of commitments of emissions reduction and we are still stumbling about new market mechanisms. There is still some weakness and divisions but we will get there. My point is that with a structure of 190 plus member states, it is very difficult to reach agreements. We have limited and good but insufficient agreements in Cancun and we are now trying to build on them because there are new submissions and that is what is slowing us down.

Q: Any compromises along the way in terms of positions?
Ambassador Williams: Not yet, not yet, everything is on the table. Some of the major emitters in the developing countries are showing flexibility around KP that we haven’t heard before so watch out for that. 

Q: On the second commitment period for KP, there are some discussions of transition period after 2012. Is that good enough?
Ambassador Williams: No, I don’t think we have to consider that. We have in fact over a 100 countries that are ready to sign and I know there is an argument that KP represent a very low level of emissions captured underneath it but the truth of the matter is that KP is one and the LCA is another and we need to take them together as two distinct conventions as a package to give us the level of certainty at this stage. What I do really have to say is that we need to scale up, particularly developing countries, the level of ambitions in relation to mitigation and financing because we are witnessing more extreme events and that mist be the signal for faster and more rapid reduction of gases in the atmosphere and the faster and more decisive intervention for mitigation and adaptation.  

Q: And that is exactly the European Union position- it is willing to take a second commitment period in KP on the condition that both developed and developing countries step up on their levels of ambition.
Ambassador Williams: The legal obligations are different. The developed countries who are historically the cause of the problem have to take obligatory actions under the Conventions. The developing countries under the Bali Plan of Action have two points – one, we must focus our priority on poverty eradication, that’s our main obligation. Our second obligation is to move away from business as usual.  If you notice, developing countries are doing both. We cannot do that – eradicate poverty and disrupt business as usual until and unless we get some support. We’d like to acknowledge and thank Denmark for making available assistance to 24 AOSIS countries in renewable energy projects. That will make a lot of difference and allow us to have carbon neutrality and take on more initiatives of greening our economies. If we can get more fast start finance to help us out of poverty and move into something that is cleaner, then that’s the way for us to meeting our obligations under the convention.

Q: I notice that in your AOSIS statements, you mention the support of the African Union and the Least Developed Countries. Does collective diplomacy helps in climate change negotiations?
Ambassador Williams:  Yes, enormously. As I said before, we have almost 200 countries trying to come to an agreement on a wide range of topics. The key is we work by consensus to build alliances, build common positions which we have had in the last three years. We have been having common dialogue, common conference with the LDCs because of the poverty eradication priority with island states, the vulnerabilities that we share and climate resilience that we want to build. Now we have that dialogue extended to another 50 countries in the African group and we are negotiating technical points on the level of finance, scale of commitments and various areas. We believe that when come as a group of 100 already with the common position that helps the process as opposed to just 43 of us with a common position. So what AOSIS is doing is taking citizenry responsibility within the negotiating process to be able to bring with LDCs and with Africa 100 plus agreed parties so that we can make more rapid progress.

Q: You are still optimistic that by the end of the week something can come out of Cancun?
Ambassador Williams: Yes Panama will produce texts for the different negotiating groups but we won’t get everything we want but some agreed text. We would get clarity on where the differences are and I am confident that within the developing countries we would have a very strong agreed to positions for going into Durban.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

South Africa provides ‘open space’ to discuss possible way forward in Durban


By Makereta Komai for Climate Pasifika in Panama


05 October 2011 --- As the Durban climate change conference looms, hosts South Africa is holding two informal consultations here in Panama in the hope that a possible climate change deal will materialise on home soil.


The open-ended consultation provides an informal space to discuss key issues that may help South Africa to find solutions for the current negotiating difficulties.


Presided by South Africa’s Ambassador Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko, the informal interaction with delegates allow for a free expression of views on a number of cross cutting issues.  

COP17 President designate, Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane with UNFCCC Executive Director, Christina Figueres
“Time is limited and we need to make the most of it. We wish to have an open engagement in a structured and focused manner.


“As incoming Presidency, we have heard from the majority of delegates that delicate balances need to be struck between issues and within issues in order for Durban to have a balanced, fair and credible outcome. Once the balances are better understood, the possibility of putting together a balanced outcome may come within reach, said Ambassador Mxakato-Diseko. 


At the very heart of putting a balanced outcome together is the question of how delegates view the future.


“In climate change negotiations we work within a web of linkages and balances, driven by the urgency of making an impact. It is for the preservation of the multilateral system that we need to look for the end of the thread of this entanglement, to ensure that we strengthen our system by weaving together a solution that can take us forward together.


“We hope that the informal consultations can be useful to develop a common understanding among delegates of where the balances will have to be struck if a successful outcome in Durban is to be achieved. 


The two informal session will try to address two major questions – how to accelerate progress on a legally binding multilateral rules based agreement and is the second commitment period to the Kyoto Protocol an essential element to strengthening the collective response to climate change.


“We believe that in responding to these questions, we can really come to the core elements that would help build a common understanding.


The Pacific delegation have welcomed South Africa’s initiative to create a forum to discuss in a transparent manner a possible way forward to a climate change deal in Durban.


“It’s a welcome move by South Africa to meet with parties and get their positions.



“While these informal sessions are not binding, at least they are an attempt to find common understanding and we support that, said Espen Ronneberg of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Sea level to rise by a metre or more if wealthy nations do not meet emissions pledges, Climate Action Tracker


By Makereta Komai for Climate Pasifika in Panama

04 October 2011 Panama --- Three non-profit climate research institutions in Europe say aggregated emission reduction pledges of wealthy nations fall far short of what is needed to get the world on track to limiting global warming to 2 and 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

Both of these warming limits are mentioned in the Cancun Agreements.

Findings of the Climate Action Tracker, comprised of Ecofys, Climate Analytics and Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research were revealed in Panama Tuesday, at the margins of the climate change negotiations underway in Panama City.

The group analysed the pledges made under the Cancun Agreement and found a gap of 10-14 billion tonnes is needed to reach the reduction level required.

“If countries implemented the most stringent reductions they have proposed, with the most stringent accounting, Climate Action Tracker has calculated the remaining gap would shrink to 8-12 billion tonnes, said Dr Bill Hare of Climate Analytics.

Dr. Bill Hare
If this situation remains, we are headed towards 3 degrees, which is dangerous for the planet, adds Dr Hare.

This will easily result in damage to vulnerable ecosystems, including sea level rise. 

“Seal level rise is likely to be a metre or more, he told Climate Pasifika.

“Countries that are vulnerable have been calling for 2 degrees or lower because of the substantial risks in these nations.

Dr Hare said scientific researches and literatures are warning of the danger uncontrolled global emissions will have on the planet.

“These are the kind of risks that politicians need to think very seriously about when they are looking at their levels of ambition.

“Many parties have put forward a submission that we establish a process in Durban to continually review and upgrade the level of ambition.  

“The EU, small islands and many African countries are pushing to have a concrete and substantative process of both a technical and political character moving forward after Durban. These are being resited by major emitters who are saying we made our pledges for 2020 and we don’t want to touch them until much later, Dr Hare told Climate Pasifika.

 According to Climate Action Tracker’s analysis of the pledges of five developed and developing nations, China appears to be on track to meet or even surpass its Cancun pledges but its emissions will rise higher than expected.

The five countries are China, United States of America, Brazil, South Korea, Japan and Australia.

“The higher overall picture shows that a higher than expected economic growth rate brings with it higher emissions, and the sooner the switch is made to cleaner energy sources, the better it is to avoid locking in climate-damaging energy.

“It also illustrates the risks and uncertainties of using business as usual scenarios as the basis for emission reduction pledges, said Dr Hare.

China, according to the findings is set to surpass its Cancun Agreement pledge of 40-45 percent reduction in emissions per unit of Gross Domestic Product by 2020 from 2005 levels through its renewable energy and other non-fossil fuel energy sources.

“Yet faster than expected economic growth means that emissions in 2020 are likely to be higher than previous estimates – by about 1 Gigatonne of carbon dioxide, said Dr Hare.

The group also observed that the absence of substantial action from the United States to meet its Copenhagen pledge of a 17 percent reduction by 2020 (at 2005 levels) will prove more expensive with every year of delay.

“If the US doesn’t start acting until 2015, it will need to reduce emissions at a rate of 3 percent a year," said Climate Action Tracker.

Brazil’s emissions will grow more rapidly than previously expected, according to new data obtained in the study.

South Korea, Japan and Australia have introduced policies to implement their pledges.

Multilateralism is at stake – G77 & China


By Makereta Komai for Climate Pasifika in Panama

04 October 2011 --- The Group of 77 and China says political will is a must if Durban is to produce a legally binding climate change deal.

“We are ready to negotiate and to produce actual texts in both tracks, but only on such a basis that respects our position as well as others. The elements are in place, we now have to translate this into an express political commitment from the developed countries, said Argentina’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and chair of the Group of 77 and China, Ambassador Jorge Arguello.

Chair of Group 77 and China, Ambassador Jorge Arguello
The Group of 77 and China, comprising 131 and one of the powerful negotiating blocs in climate change negotiations says the basis for any fruitful negotiations must include: the preservation of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, in keeping with the Bali road map and the two tracks of negotiation agreed.

And key to the negotiations is the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, said Ambassador Argüello.

It urges all parties to respect their obligations and agreements under this multilateral framework.

“The defense of multilateralism must go beyond words, this is a tool that has proved beneficial to all humanity and, definitively, to developing countries.

“Much as some rich countries like to repeat that discussing scenarios that they oppose is not "realistic" or "practical", they must recognize that there is no point in insisting on a solution outside of the Kyoto Protocol when 132 parties have strongly declared they can only accept a second commitment period as a meaningful outcome.

“I think most parties understand by now that a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol is key for any positive outcome we can expect in Durban. I had the chance to update the incoming President of COP17 on the thinking of our Group and our firm commitment to that end, said the group chair.

On Monday, Ambassador Arguello met with the Foreign Minister of South Africa, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane. Minister Nkoana-Mashabane is in Panama to participate in the meeting in her capacity as incoming president of the 17th Conference of Parties (COP17) which would take place in Durban later this year.

South African delegation
“We have had a very productive and positive meeting,” said Ambassador Argüello.

“I am very encouraged by the determination of the Minister to help all parties work towards a meaningful outcome in Durban, even in the short time we have, said Ambassador Arguello.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

South Pacific Islands running out of water


By Hilary Whiteman, CNN


(CNN) -- Two idyllic South Pacific islands are facing a water crisis; they're running out of it, and fast.

The island nations Tuvalu and Tokelau have declared states of emergency after six months of little or no rainfall.

It's estimated that at the current rate of consumption the Tuvaluan atoll of Funafuti, home to 5,000 people, will run out of drinking water in two weeks. Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand with a population of 1,500, could run dry in just one.

"We are all working in line with the fact that we recognize this national emergency situation," Jo Suveinakama, the general manager of the Tokelau government told Radio New Zealand.

The New Zealand Red Cross flew emergency supplies to Tuvalu Monday on a New Zealand Defense Force flight along with two aid workers and two foreign ministry staff.


"We have mobilized 2,000 collapsible water containers, hand sanitizers, tarpaulins to be used to capture rain (and) two emergency desalination units," Andrew McKie, New Zealand Red Cross International Operations and Emergency Manager said in a statement Tuesday.

The emergency desalinators are being sent south on a patrol boat at midnight Tuesday to the small atoll of Nukulaelae, part of Tuvalu, whose population of 330 is reported to be down to its last 60 liters of water. Schools have closed as residents conserve what little water they have and pray for rain.

"It's a pretty dire situation there," Gareth Smith, New Zealand High Commissioner to Tuvalu told Radio New Zealand. Smith is one of the two foreign ministry staff sent to Tuvalu this week.

In Nukulaelae, water is being rationed. Families - some with as many as 10 people - are forced to live on just 40 liters a day, according to Dave Hebblethwaite, a water management adviser from the Applied Geoscience and Technology Division of Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

"Families are getting by washing in the sea and only having a short wash in fresh water if at all," he said, adding that most of the fresh water is being reserved for drinking and cooking.

The Tuvalu government briefed a group known as the "Diplomatic Corps" Tuesday in the Fijian capital of Suva on the type of aid that might be needed. Delegates included head of foreign missions, international agencies and regional organizations. Parts for desalination units and fuel top the list, Hebblethwaite said.

Tuvalu, the world's fourth smallest country, is a nation of four reef islands and five atolls covering 26 square kilometers in the Pacific Ocean halfway between Hawaii and Australia.

The island nation relies almost exclusively on rainwater collected from the roofs of homes and government buildings to supply a population of 10,000. However, three dry spells over the last three years has gradually drained the community's water supplies.

"Communities in Tuvalu are pretty used to doing it tough," Hebblethwaite said. "Atoll environments are really hard environments to live in and when you're just relying on rainfall for all of your water, you find yourself in situations where you do need to make the most of every small amount.

"For these communities to be asking for external assistance, it shows that the situation is quite serious," he said.

New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has warned the water crisis could lead to food shortages as crops fail.

"We're now doing an assessment, not just in Tuvalu but also in other areas of the Pacific that are affected by the shortage of rainfall, making sure we deal with the drinking water issue most urgently," he told Radio New Zealand.

Tuvalu imports the bulk of its food but its people also grow their own crops, mostly taro. The root vegetable is grown in pits filled with organic matter due to the lack of soil available on the atoll.

"We know that on some of the islands, particularly on Nukalaelae, many pits are suffering damage from either drying out or getting saline from the water table. So there's certainly an impact on food security," Hebblethwaite said.

"We're even finding that some fruit trees are suffering, even coconuts, which is unusual. Coconut palms on Nukalaelae are starting to lose their fronds," he said.

Tuvalu has been very vocal in its calls for international help to mitigate the effects of climate change. It has warned that it is in danger of "sinking" as sea water levels rise.

"The information we have about climate change and rainfall patterns is getting better and better every month," Hebblethwaite said. However he added that assessing long term trends on the islands was difficult to due the lack of rain gauges.

"One thing's for sure, water will be the main mechanism by which climate change impacts on these island communities, whether it be by droughts or by storms or floods," he said. "So building their resistance to today's climate variability that they're experiencing will be a key defense they can employ against the future impacts of climate change, and I think people are recognizing that."