Cook Islands Prime Minister
Climate Change Resilience

8 November 2020, COP26 - World leaders, negotiators and delegates at COP26 should consider a new global financial instrument that recognises climate-related debt, separately from national debt.

The call to world leaders at COP26 to ramp up discussions about adaptation financing came from the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Honourable Mark Brown.  Prime Minister Brown is among Pacific leaders who are unable to attend the Glasgow talks in person due to ramifications of COVID-19 but the message from the Pacific’s Political Champion for Finance delivered virtually, did not go unnoticed.

“Adaptation measures by their very nature are long-term investments against climate impacts, thus we need to be talking about adaptation project lifecycles of 20 years, 50 years and 100 years, and more,” said the Hon. Prime Minister.

“We need to provide for innovative financing modalities that do not increase our debt. We need to consider amortising adaptation debt over a 100-year timeframe, and we need to take climate adaptation debt off national balance sheets and create a new global financial instrument that recognises climate-related debt, separately from national debt.”

The Cook Islands Prime Minister also called on leaders to focus on debt servicing and a debt-service facility, as opposed to focusing on debt itself.

“In line with the thinking I’ve just expressed, the reform of financial institutions to align with the Paris Agreement 1.5-degree target is not a wish but a clear requisite. The Cook Islands seeks a new commitment that dedicates financing towards Loss and Damage that would assist our vulnerable communities to manage the transfer of risks experienced by the irreversible impacts of climate change.”

Having served as Finance Minister in his country for 11 years, Mr Brown said his call for better adaptation and building resilience when it comes to climate change has been consistent.

 “In France at COP21 in 2015, we reached an accord known worldwide as the Paris Agreement, which then came into force a year later in November 2016. These were significant steps to addressing the implementation of the Climate Convention,” he said.

“We are at a crossroads where survival of the planet’s human and animal species are reliant on how we can come to the right decisions at COP26 in reducing our global emissions and in turn building the resilience needed for that survival for all. The Cook Islands is one of the worlds small island nations with much to lose if an agreement is not made at the COP.”

In the Cook Islands, the Prime Minister told leaders that as a result of climate change, the government is raising riverbanks to protect homes that for the first time in history are being reached by floodwater. 

“We are building water storage on islands that have never before experienced levels of drought that we see now. We are busy finding ways to protect ourselves against the impacts of climate change that we are already experiencing, now.”

What is happening in the Cook Islands, and in all Pacific nations, has been scientifically proven by a coalition of global scientists under the United Nations, who have called for the urgent and immediate acceleration of efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

“The Cook Islands needs to see this report as the basis for the essential agreements coming out of the COP. We have to use the most recent climate science as evidence that the world is warming, that humanity has altered the atmosphere, and all life as we know it is at risk. In this context, the Paris Agreement is the pathway to addressing these severe concerns from our nations.”

A key part of the Paris Agreement, and the ability of countries like the Cook Islands to adapt, hinges on the promise of the USD100 billion commitment. The Prime Minister reminded the larger development Parties at COP to meet this commitment.

“We need the assurance that adaptation will receive an equitable amount of financing as for mitigation. Simultaneously it is critical that COP26 begins discussions for a new quantifiable goal on climate finance,” said Prime Minister Brown.

“It is undeniable that the measures to adapt will surge in direct relation to increased global warming in conjunction with the expense to bolster our resilience. The Pacific like other at-risk regions needs to be able to access financing support for the implementation of adaptation measures that is not subject to National income status considerations applied by the OECD. Countries like the Cook Islands are the most affected by a climate crisis we did not create and can least afford.

“We gladly welcome outcomes that commit to meaningful access to climate finance for those at the forefront of this code red climate crisis. Increasing public-grant financing for vulnerable countries within all SIDS region, including the Cook Islands is an urgent issue, and needs to be agreed by the COP.”

Lastly, the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands reminded leaders at COP26 that his country stands ready to support and contribute to global effort to finalise the Paris Agreement and embark on a future journey that limits global warming to 1.5°C.

While the Cook Islands Prime Minister Hon. Mark Brown is not attending the Twenty-Sixth Conference of the Parties to the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change this year, however as the Pacific High-Level Champion for Climate Finance, he is actively supporting the region attending the COP, including through a schedule of engagements prepared by national and regional officials, that maintain his wish to continue with his nomination as High-Level Champion for the region on climate finance.

The Twenty-Sixth Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC is held in Glasgow from 31 October – 12 November 2021.

COP26 Prime Minister Cook Islands Loss and Damage