Climate change challenge

Fred Wesley | Friday, June 9, 2017
THE comment by the Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama that national contributions by respective countries to the Paris Agreement are not enough to save the Pacific will attract attention.
Fred Wesley
Fred Wesley

Mr Bainimarama, the incoming president of COP 23, has urged Pacific leaders to stand by him and demand for decisive action.

Addressing Pacific leaders at the United Nations Ocean Conference in New York yesterday, Mr Bainimarama said it was important for all Pacific leaders that the Paris Agreement of 2015 was fully implemented.

To that end, it was a matter of persuading the rest of the world to embrace more ambitious action in the years to come. The current national contributions to the Paris Agreement, he said, are not enough to save us.

Raising our regional platform, Mr Bainimarama urged Pacific leaders to stand up and demand "decisive action to protect the security of our people and those in other vulnerable parts of the world".

Yesterday, he also outlined his concern that America's decision to abandon the Paris Agreement may also encourage other nations to either back away from the commitments they have made or not implement them with the same resolve.

He, however, believes the American setback is actually galvanising opinion around the world in support of decisive climate action.

"Something wonderful is happening," he said.

"Other nations and blocs like China, the European Union and India are stepping forward to assume the leadership that Donald Trump has abandoned. And within America itself, there is a widespread rebellion against the decision the president has taken," Mr Bainimarama said.

After two weeks of negotiations in Paris in 2015, an agreement was finally reached, or so it seemed.

The Paris Agreement, which should come into effect from 2020, aimed to keep the global temperature increase "well below" 2 degrees Celsius and to pursue efforts to limit it to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

At the time, the agreement looked positive from the outset. It achieved one major goal which was to limit average global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures and strives for the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit.

US President at the time, Barack Obama, praised the agreement in Paris, suggesting it could be "a turning point for the world". The Paris Agreement, he said, established "the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis". He said, "it created the mechanism, the architecture, for us to continually tackle this problem in an effective way".

While praising the US leadership, he noted that all participating nations would have to co-operate.

Mr Obama said the agreement was "the best chance we have to save the one planet that we've got".

They were undoubtedly famous words then.

There was joy in the fact that there was an agreement, however, sceptics at the time also insisted there were major issues that weren't effectively addressed.

There were obviously a number of questions raised.

For instance, how would the plan be enforced? Who would police it? What happens to nations that do not respect the treaty?

Today we are left with a scenario that will test the resolve of nations that are committed to fighting climate change.

We can only hope there is genuine commitment by participating nations to abide by the undertaking in Paris.

Otherwise, as former Kiribati President Anote Tong said in 2015, it "sort of has become sexy to be talking about climate change".

The emphasis being on "talking about climate change".

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