What is COP and how does it affect the Pacific?

By Ariadne Lopez


Key points


  • COP27 conference on climate change took place in Egypt from 6 to 18 November 2022

  • Pacific Islands contribute very little to global warming, however are considered the most vulnerable nations

  • A moving online speech by the Tuvalu Foreign Minister Simon Kofe went viral. He stated that with rising sea levels, Tuvalu was destined to become the “the world’s first digital nation”

  • New loss and damage fund to be financed by the industrialised countries will assist developing countries impacted by climate change

 

Introduction


The Pacific Island nations have been at the centre of discussions at this year’s United Nations Conference of the Parties (COP27). Pacific leaders pushed to get their message across and emphasised the impacts these nations are facing.


What is COP


The UN Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP) is the decision-making body of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) tasked with negotiating and assessing international regulations on reducing anthropogenic climate change. [1]


From 6 to 18 November, heads of state, ministers and negotiators, along with climate activists, civil society representatives and CEOs gathered in the Egyptian coastal city of Sharm el-Sheikh for the largest annual gathering on climate action, COP27. [2]


Why is it relevant to the Pacific


Pacific Island countries are on the frontline of climate change, despite contributing very little to global warming. Many of these nations are also vulnerable to debt as they try to adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change.


In the Pacific, many countries face major challenges flowing from climate change including frequent cyclones and temperature changes in the ocean.


Low lying countries such as Vanuatu and Tuvalu specifically face existential threats from rising sea levels. In Tuvalu, two of its nine atolls are already sinking. [3]


COP27 – the Pacific wrap up


Tuvalu


A confronting presentation by Tuvalu’s foreign minister Simon Kofe has gone viral (video here). His message was that as sea levels rise, Tuvalu as a community will cease to exist as a physical entity and would be the world’s first digital nation as it moves to the metaverse. Mr.Kofe presented from what looked like the nation of Tuvalu, but was actually the metaverse. [4]


“As our land disappears, we have no choice but to become the world’s first digital nation. Our land, our ocean and our culture are the most precious assets of our people. And to keep them safe from harm, no matter what happens in the physical world, will move them to the Cloud,” stated Mr. Kofe.


“Islands like this one won’t survive rapid temperature increases, rising sea levels and droughts.”



Cook Islands


Mark Brown, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands said “It is up to the G20 countries responsible for 80% of global emissions that we are beholden to for our survival. Our survival is being held to ransom at the cost of profit and an unwillingness to act despite the ability to do so”. [5]


Fiji


Prime Minister Voreqa Bainimarama has called on United States President Joe Biden to support loss and damage at COP27.


“There’s no clearer way to show the USA is serious about its better relationship with the planet and our US-Pacific Partnership.”


So what now?


After many hours of intense negotiations lasting through the night, a last minute agreement was made establishing a new loss and damage fund [6] to be financed by advanced industrial countries for the rebuilding of developing countries severely impacted by climate change that they have done little to cause. Many believe this is a long overdue acknowledgement of fault by advanced industrial companies and an essential step forward in minimising the effects down the track.


UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomes this decision as a “much needed political signal to rebuild broken trust”.[7]


Tuvalu also called for a Fossil Fuel non-proliferation treaty at the UN Climate Talks, joining Vanuatu. [8]


To read more about the importance of access to finance in the Pacific, click here.


 

[1] Arab Reform Initiative, The Cop27: What’s at stake for activists, Climate Finance, and loss and damage? (2022) Available at: https://www.arab-reform.net/publication/the-cop27-whats-at-stake-for-activists-climate-finance-and-loss-and-damage/#:~:text=The%20agreement%20demanded%20a%20collective,emissions%20by%202050%20%5Bv%5D. [2] COP 27: Delivering for people and the planet (2022), United Nations. Available at: https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/cop27 [3] Green Climate Fund, FP015: Tuvalu Coastal Adaptation Project (TCAP) (2016), Green Climate Fund. Available at: https://www.greenclimate.fund/project/fp015 [4] Rising sea levels force Tuvalu to move to the metaverse: Cop27 speech (2022) Youtube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXpeO5BgAOM&t=3s [5] Weforum, The top quotes from climate leaders at the un summit (11 Nov 2022), Word Economic Forum: Available at: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/11/cop27-the-top-quotes-from-climate-leaders-at-the-un-summit/ [6] United Nations, COP 27: Delivering for people and the planet (2022), United Nations. Available at: https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/cop27#:~:text=in%20your%20browser.-,COP27%20closes%20with%20deal%20on%20loss%20and%20damage,'%20from%20climate%2Dinduced%20disasters. [7]Euronews, Greta Thunberg, Antonio Guterres and Mary Robinson: What exprts are saying about the COP27 deal (21 Nov 2022) Green News. Available at: https://www.euronews.com/green/2022/11/21/greta-thunberg-antonio-guterres-and-mary-robinson-what-experts-are-saying-about-cop27-deal#:~:text=UN%20Secretary%2DGeneral%20Antonio%20Guterres,signal%20to%20rebuild%20broken%20trust.%E2%80%9D [8]Fossil fuel treaty, Tuvalu becomes second nation-state to call for a fossil fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty (2022) The Fossil Fuel Non-proliferation Treaty Initiative. Available at: https://fossilfueltreaty.org/tuvalu#:~:text=Tuvalu%20has%20joined%20Vanuatu%20and,transition%20away%20from%20fossil%20fuels.%E2%80%9D


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