Photo: At UNFCCC COP24, Hon. Ralph Regenvanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade of Vanuatu (right)
10 December 2018, Katowice, Poland - The 24th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP24) is underway in Katowice, Poland.
Global cooperation was celebrated at COP21 in Paris, 2015 with the Paris Agreement, the new international climate agreement which starts in the year 2020. This agreed to hold the increase in global average temperatures to well below 2ºC above pre-industrial levels and to ensure that efforts are pursued to limit increase to 1.5º.
Discussions at the UN Climate Change Conference this week will see the development of the Paris Agreement Rulebook that brings the Paris Agreement to life, outlining how climate action will be carried out and accounted for by all Parties, to achieve the PA goals. This includes guidelines on how to track the national commitments made to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as how to communicate the climate actions undertaken at the national level.
While week two is now starting, it’s this coming week in which we’ll be able to see telling progress on the UN Climate Negotiations.
We spent time with Hon. Ralph Regenvanu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade of Vanuatu, at the Climate Conference in Katowice to find out how the Climate Change negotiations were going.
Q. What are some of the key negotiation issues for Vanuatu here at COP24?
Hon Ralph Regenvanu: “Of course for us there is the issue of climate finance that is really one of the main issues that we are here to talk about. We see that there is not enough commitment to the mechanisms that were agreed to in Paris to provide finance for countries like Vanuatu, not only for mitigation and adaptation but also for loss and damage. Even getting those discussions on the table seems to be difficult at the moment so we are also looking at other options for raising climate finance.”
“We are looking forward to China stepping up to its commitment and I will be meeting with the Minister of China to talk about that, but really we need Australia to step up as well. It’s the elephant in the room in a way, being the biggest economy in the Pacific and refusing to contribute anymore to the Green Climate Fund. Australia talks about their bilateral assistance on climate change which is true, it’s quite significant to the countries. The point is the Paris Agreement is the international, multilateral agreement - the main international agreement on climate change. Australia keeps pushing the Pacific to follow the “international rules-based order” when it comes to international relations, but Australia also needs to put its money where its mouth is and commit to the Green Climate Fund, especially if you are talking about countries committing to these international rules.”
A key document on the table for consideration at the COP24 is the Special Report on 1.5ºC by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The scientific report outlines the differences of a world in which global warming has been limited to 1.5ºC as opposed to that of 2ºC. Released in October this year, the report outlines three key aspects – 1. That while the world is in a dire state at 1.5 it will be much worse at 2ºC. 2. That the Small Islands Developing States were justified in their call to include the 1.5C in the Paris Agreement and 3. That a limit at 1.5 is still feasible, it requires urgent action from all while the window for opportunity is still open.
It is at COP24 that Small Islands Developing States Parties are calling for the IPCC Special Report on 1.5ºC to be welcomed in the outcomes and decisions of the COP24. The Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS) were strong in calling for the language to be incorporated in the Paris Agreement. Here at COP24 AOSIS continue their call for the IPCC Special Report on 1.5 to be welcomed in the COP24 outcomes, so the report remains on the table for consideration in all future work on climate action.
Q. The IPCC Special Report on 1.5ºC, is an important negotiation ask from the Pacific islands and all Small Islands Developing States – negotiating for the report to be part of the COP24 decision outcomes. What is Vanuatu’s views on progress with this?
“We’ve got to meet the commitments we made in Paris and go even further because of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on 1.5ºC. We know we are way off from where we should be in terms of meeting the goals we set in Paris so that means increasing ambition. It also means that we must acknowledge and use the IPCC Special Report on 1.5 ºC which unfortunately looks like it is becoming an issue here at COP with some countries not wanting to acknowledge this report as a centerpiece of what we should be doing. Of course it’s very disappointing, this report is extremely central. We must find a way forward on this issue because countries must come around to the view of how significant this report is in determining future actions. Vanuatu will be taking this up in a number of bilaterals with countries, especially the developed countries so we can get them on board with this.”
Vanuatu is also exploring the option of suing fossil fuel companies and nations which support the industry, for their role in climate change. If so, it would be the very first climate liability lawsuit by a national government.
Q. I also understand that Vanuatu is considering taking legal action?
“Yes, Vanuatu raised this as part of the Climate Vulnerable Forum Virtual Summit, we are looking at the possibility of taking legal action against the major fossil fuel companies, even state to state litigation under international law. Vanuatu desperately needs the money to continue to cope with the destructive effects which are a result of climate change. We need to see those commitments come out of this COP24 so we can respond effectively. We need money that doesn’t seem to be there so we are looking at options. We will be holding meetings here at COP24 on the legal action that Vanuatu is exploring, sharing information with our Pacific islands family should they also be interested in taking this step also. We are working with internationally renowned lawyers with expertise in international treaties and also domestic litigation, we’ll be going over the different options on the table for us.”
This week the crunch is on with week two of the UN Climate Change negotiations is now underway in Katowice, Poland. The “asks” from the Pacific and Small Islands Developing States are still being negotiated.
Also to take place this week is the High Level Talanoa Dialogue sessions in which the Ministerial level are sharing their voice which will lend to the COP24 decision outcomes.
The UNFCCC COP24 is held in Katowice, Poland from 2 to 14 December, 2018.
For more information on the following please visit the below links:
IPCC Special Report on 1.5ºC: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/
Key facts on the IPCC Special Report on 1.5ºC: https://climateanalytics.org/briefings/15c-key-facts/