by the Director-General of SPREP, Mr David Sheppard
Climate change poses immense risks and dangers for our region. It is thus no surprise that Pacific Island countries and territories were very well represented at the recent Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention for Climate Change (UNFCCC) held in December in Durban, South Africa. Our representatives participated actively in all areas of the Conference and were lead negotiators for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) in certain issues such as adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change.
A major outcome was reaching agreement on a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol (KP2). There were fears that the Kyoto Protocol would die in Durban, and this decision secured its extension while a broader agreement is being negotiated. The need to extend the Kyoto Protocol was a key point made by Pacific negotiators in Durban so this is a positive outcome.
Another significant outcome from Durban is the decision to launch a process to "develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the Convention applicable to all Parties" to be negotiated by 2015 and that will be effective no later than 2020. Without it, there would be no road map for the future climate change regime. It was likened to the Berlin mandate of 1995 that led to the Kyoto Protocol, which similarly saw AOSIS as a driving force. It is significant as it will cover all major emitters, including China, India and the United States (all of which are currently not included in the Kyoto Protocol). However, the legal interpretation of the final outcome of the new process is likely to become a contentious issue as negotiations proceed.
An important decision relates to the operationalization of the Green Climate Fund, with signals from some countries of pledges to finance it. Durban agreed on the recommendations from the Transitional Committee for the Fund, which saw strong engagement and involvement by Samoa's Ambassador to the United States Ambassador Aliioaiga Feturi Elisaia, supported by SPREP and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
The challenge will now be to ensure that adequate funding is received not only for the functioning of the Fund, but also to make the Fund "work" at an operational level in support of key activities on the ground in developing countries. Of note is also the decision to give equal weighting to adaptation as well as mitigation activities in the Green Climate Fund.
There was positive progress in many work areas under the Conference. For example on adaptation, the Adaptation Committee was established and its initial work programme was decided. However, Pacific Island Countries did not attain all that they had requested, such as having a higher status for the Adaptation Committee in the FCCC hierarchy.
Related to this, the Pacific noted positive progress on a work programme on loss and damage, which will look into various approaches such as insurance, to reach an agreement on how this can be applied to regions such as the Pacific in response to both longer term impacts and extreme events.
Throughout the conference there was a very positive cooperation between SPREP and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs), through having an "Islands Pavilion" at Durban where we had many side events and joint meetings and activities. This built on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) I signed with Dr Ken Leslie, CEO of the 5Cs in Samoa in June, 2011 which aims to strengthen cooperation between the Pacific and Caribbean on climate change. Our joint events were very well attended and provided a special forum to improve knowledge on what island regions are doing on climate change.
AOSIS was a major player at Durban with significant influence on the negotiations process. The cooperation between AOSIS, the European Union (EU) and the Least Developed Countries Group had a major impact in ensuring the final result from Durban, in particular the road map for negotiating the new instrument. The Chair of AOSIS will move from Grenada to Nauru in January, 2012, and this will significantly raise the profile of the Pacific Island Countries in the FCCC process.
In addition, we also had representatives of the regional Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change (PACC) project who presented on progress during various side events. This has resulted in a renewed interest in supporting our region on the critical issue of adaptation.
SPREP will continue to support the Pacific Island Countries in the negotiations to help them secure an outcome that will protect our islands in the long term.