"There is no prosperity, justice and peace on a planet that is on fire," says a minister from the Marshall Islands
By Megan Rowling
MARRAKESH, Morocco, Nov 18 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A group of the countries most at risk from climate change said they would strive to make their energy production 100 percent renewable "as rapidly as possible", as part of efforts to limit global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), which numbers 48 nations, also committed to update their climate action plans submitted as part of the U.N. climate pact agreed in Paris last year and prepare low-carbon development strategies for mid-century, both before 2020.
But they emphasised they would need additional funding for more ambitious steps to reduce emissions and protect their people from extreme weather and rising seas.
"Today's commitment by the member countries of the Climate Vulnerable Forum to move toward powering their economies entirely with renewable energy is a bold vision that sets the pace for the world's efforts to implement the Paris Agreement and move even more quickly to solve the climate crisis," former U.S. Vice President Al Gore said in a statement.
Mattlan Zackhras, minister in assistance to the president of the Marshall Islands, said his Pacific island country was "pioneering" the transformation towards 100 percent renewable energy and wanted other countries to follow.
"There is no prosperity, justice and peace on a planet that is on fire," he told a forum meeting at the U.N. climate talks in Morocco.
Saleemul Huq, director of the Dhaka-based International Centre for Climate Change and Development, said the CVF had played a key role in ensuring the Paris climate accord included a goal to strive for a global warming limit of 1.5 degrees, alongside a promise to keep temperature rise "well below" 2 degrees above pre-industrial times.
Huq, who advises the forum, urged developing states to focus on providing help to one another - a call echoed by China, which said it had much expertise to offer CVF countries on moving to a low-carbon economy.
Edgar Gutiérrez, environment and energy minister of Costa Rica - which is aiming to be a carbon-neutral economy from 2021 - said all countries should start moving towards 100 percent renewable energy and becoming carbon neutral, "otherwise we will all suffer".
Evelyn Cruzada, of the office of the Philippines' cabinet secretary, said CVF countries - which span Africa, Asia-Pacific, Central America, the Caribbean and the Middle East - should have the courage to "change the way we do things".
"More than 1.5 degrees will destroy possibilities for a decent quality of life," she warned. "We must not build an economy based on suffering."
Miguel Arias Cañete, European Union Climate Action and Energy Commissioner, said the CVF countries had shown "moral leadership... with real-world commitments to action".
But some of the CVF nations will face a significant challenge to wean their economies off fossil fuels by 2030 to 2050, as they pledged on Friday.
In the Philippines, for example, coal accounted for nearly 45 percent of power generation in 2015, and the country plans to build more than 20 new coal-power plants.
In July the new environment secretary said the government would prioritise renewable energy over fossil fuels in approving permits for power plants. But Philippines media reported this week that Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi told a coal industry forum the dirty fuel "is here to stay".
Cruzada said on Friday the energy department was still studying how to transition to cleaner energy, adding that two areas of the Southeast Asian nation are now using wind power, and solar energy is starting to take off.
Some of the investment needed to shift to renewable energy would come from the private sector but international support would also would be required, both for the energy shift and to enable the Philippines to deal with worsening climate extremes, she said.
"We need help from outside because we are beset by at least 20 typhoons a year that are destroying much of our infrastructure and our agriculture," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The scarcity of funding for developing countries to adapt to climate change has been a thorny issue at the Morocco climate talks, with richer nations ducking pressure to set specific targets to increase their contributions.
The CVF countries said they would do their best to find resources at home to tackle climate change and to eliminate "harmful subsidies" for high-carbon activities.
But they viewed the annual $100 billion in climate finance rich countries have promised to mobilise by 2020 as "a minimum that can be surpassed through concerted international collaboration", they added.
Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a young Marshallese poet who has performed her work at the United Nations, read out the main messages from the CVF's vision, approved on Friday, which stated: "Our resilience is a humanitarian priority".
"This communique... is a first step towards turning the tides and saving our world," she said.
(Reporting by Megan Rowling @meganrowling; editing by Laurie Goering. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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