09 November 2022, Sharm el-Sheikh, COP27 - Loss and Damage may not be the term that Pacific Island people use to describe their climate change experiences yet within the corridors at COP27, it’s the term that describes the suffering felt by our Pacific islands’ community.
Reflecting our climate change experiences, and the best way to address these on paper for our Pacific Islands survival is at the heart of the Twenty-Seventh Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) now underway in Sharm el-Sheikh Egypt.
Loss and Damage is when human-induced climate change impacts go far beyond our ability to adapt and bounce back to what once was our normal. The slow onset changes caused by climate change effects pose a threat to our health, livelihoods, culture and identity as well as our Pacific security and well-being.
With over 55,000 people having registered for COP27, the Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion has ensured the Pacific voice is amplified and heard. Such was the case for our Pacific Islands people on the issue of Loss and Damage.
“We know what Loss and Damage is in our part of the world. We are living it, there is no question about it, and so we work to make sure our voice is heard – that we need a dedicated special fund for Loss and Damage,” said Hon Seve Paeniu of the Government of Tuvalu, Minister Paeniu is the Pacific High-Level Champion for Loss and Damage.
Featured at the event – “Loss and Damage: Sharing experiences and lived reality of climate change in the Pacific Small Islands Developing States”, Minister Paeniu explained what our Pacific Islands are asking of the 196-plus Parties to the UNFCCC.
“It’s about time that we take action and deliver for loss and damage. We need to fight hard to make sure there is a commitment from parties for a work programme over the next two years. We need to fight hard for a financial facility for Loss and Damage. We have much work ahead of us,” said Hon. Minister Paeniu.
A personal example and experience of Loss and Damage in the Pacific was shared by the Hon. Senator Maynard Alfred, of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. The island atoll has a land area of just over 180 sqm that sits within an EEZ of more than two million sqm.
“Over the years with sea level rise, we are losing more and more land. We have lost over an acre of our land – what are we going to do when all our land is gone?” asked Senator Alfred.
The voice of a Cook Islands young person was amplified through Ms Charlene Hoff, who shared her perspective on why Loss and Damage is of importance to our Pacific Islands people.
Vulnerable countries and communities are already experiencing loss and damage from unavoidable climate change impacts and urgently need finance to support recovery, protect human rights and development gains and prepare for future displacement and livelihood losses.
“Loss and Damage can have a serious consequence on our economy. Each time we are struck by a severe climate impact, it is harder and harder for us to bounce back – what happens when the impacts are so much bigger than what we can fix? What are we going to do to ensure our livelihoods are secure? As a young Mother, these are some of the very real fears I have for our future,” said Ms Hoff.
Human-induced climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme events, has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people beyond natural climate variability.
Amplifying our Pacific voice, sharing our Pacific stories and calling for change from all is Ms Viva Tatawaqa, a member of the Qaqa Fiji Grassroots Young Feminist Network and DIVA for Equality, Management Collective Fiji.
Ms Tatawaqa has been active in ensuring her Pacific realities are shared and heard, as she calls for more action at COP27: “We are not going back after these two weeks with nothing. We want action. So please excuse us – in fact, we are excusing ourselves right now as we are speaking out and we are being loud. We deserve to be heard; we deserve better. Don’t you dare try to shut us down.
Some development and adaptation efforts have reduced vulnerability, but the rise in weather and climate extremes has led to some irreversible impacts as natural and human systems are pushed beyond our Pacific ability to adapt. For Pacific islands and communities, loss and damage from climate change are a living reality. However, global understanding of this reality is very limited.
“SPREP, and our fellow regional agencies stand ready to support our Pacific Small Islands Developing States, as we have demonstrated time and time again with the technical, and communications support for an amplified Pacific voice at the climate change negotiations,” said Mr Sefanaia Nawadra, the Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
“We are also here to support and assist where needed to help implement action on the ground with our PSIDS. We have all seen the Loss and Damage across our Pacific Islands region, we must do all we can for our Pacific survival.”
The “Loss and Damage: Sharing experiences and lived reality of climate change in the Pacific Small Islands Developing States” side event was hosted in the Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion on 8 November 2022 at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh.
The 27th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP27) is being held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt from 6 to 18 November 2022.
It is being attended by Pacific leaders and their delegations, who are advocating for their survival. The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) is lead of the One CROP, working together to provide support to Pacific Islands.