Threatened small islands call for "concrete" climate action

Monday, 29 April 2013 15:03 GMT

A mother carries her baby as a child wades behind on a street flooded with sea water in Mayangan village in Subang, Indonesia's West Java province July 16, 2010. REUTERS/Beawiharta

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Real movement to stem climate change, driven by science, needs to be the focus of the Bonn negotiations this week

The latest round of U.N. climate talks, a second session of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), resumed this week in Bonn, Germany.

As so often seems to be the case, the meeting began against the backdrop of alarming news about climate change from the scientific community.

Researchers at the Mauna Loa laboratory confirmed that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide are on track, this month, to exceed 400 parts per million for sustained lengths of time throughout much of the Northern Hemisphere.

This ominous milestone is particularly unsettling for the citizens of small island and low-lying coastal states who have already experienced life-altering changes due to warming of less than 1 degree Celsius, including stronger and more deadly tropical cyclones, prolonged droughts, the loss of coral and mangrove ecosystems, and, perhaps most alarmingly, an acceleration in sea level rise.

In light of these realities, we must achieve an ADP agreement that ultimately brings CO2 concentrations back below these levels in order to limit warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

With a September session looking unlikely, our work this week and in June must focus intensely on delivering concrete outcomes for the climate that sustains us all. A failure to act decisively now will only require a reactive and vastly more expensive response later.


To give focus to our work, parties agreed to organize our discussions into two separate workstreams. Workstream 1 is tasked with elaborating the details of a protocol to be adopted by 2015 at the latest; Workstream 2 with identifying ways to raise mitigation ambition between now and 2020.

The two tracks are closely linked, but we must not forget that science has clearly shown that unless we reduce emissions in the short-term, well before 2020, the opportunity to avoid catastrophic global warming in excess of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels could be irrevocably lost.

Thus we have reiterated our call for establishing two distinct contact groups to ensure that the workstreams's subject matter is kept separate.

To that end, the second workstream must focus closely on specific and scalable mitigation actions and policies that can be deployed immediately, including those outlined in the UNEP gap report.

It must also give close consideration to developing strategies capable of overcoming implementation barriers, including the scaled-up delivery of financial resources, technology and capacity building to the developing world. 


At the same time, we must expand the conversation beyond purely climate negotiators and work to engage those with on-the-ground expertise in the development and implementation of successful mitigation actions in this process, including civil society, scientists, the private sector and experts from the relevant ministries within our governments. 

Of course, the decision to raise ambition ultimately requires engagement at the highest level, so we are calling for a ministerial meeting on raising mitigation ambition at COP19 in Warsaw to help build the political momentum necessary for the adoption of more ambitious mitigation targets by developed countries and NAMAs by developing countries.

We welcomed the announcement made by the UN Secretary-General last year in Doha to convene a leaders’ summit in 2014, which will serve as an important decision point for countries to raise their ambition.

Of course, we must also make progress in Workstream 1 on the core elements of the new legally binding agreement to be adopted in 2015.

We know all too well that turning policy into action can be a painfully slow process, so the decisions we make today must be guided by the science, and sufficiently ambitious to protect the interests of future generations, as well as our own.

Our work moving forward should continue to build on the foundations of the Convention, including its fundamental principles and provisions.

That means the outcome of this process should be a Protocol under the Convention applicable to all parties, which is adopted no later than 2015 and strengthens the multilateral rules-based and legally binding regime. Being “applicable to all”, it will require universal participation and contributions from every party.

Perversely, even as the solutions to the crisis are more accessible than ever before, the costs of inaction, economic, social, and physical, grow worse by the day.

We urge all parties to work with an increased sense of urgency this week and above all focus on doing our part to achieve an ambitious, comprehensive and meaningful outcome.

Ngedikes "Olai" Uludong is the lead negotiator for the Alliance Of Small Island States (AOSIS).