9 Dec 2015

Bottom line for Pacific leaders at climate talks

1:11 pm on 9 December 2015

If a legally binding agreement doesn't come out of the Paris climate change talks, then COP21 will be seen as a waste of time in the eyes of Pacific leaders.

Tebikenikora, a village in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati. September 5 2011

Locals in a village in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati are concerned about the effects of climate change on their low-lying land. Photo: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Pacific Nations addressing the COP21 conference have said their futures are at extreme risk from climate change, and that a binding ambitious agreement is vital.

Pacific representatives, including Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Dame Meg Taylor have sounded stark warnings telling the conference that they must limit warming to less than 1.5°C .

They have presented a united front, telling the negotiations how Pacific communities livelihoods depend on the ocean - and how they are already seriously impacted by sea level rise, ocean acidification, and cyclones that are increasing in intensity and frequency.

The Prime Minister of Tuvalu the Hon. Enele Sopoaga is at the Paris conference and told Nine to Noon he was optimistic about a deal being signed.

"It is my take that we are going to have a legally binding agreement at the end of this week. I'm very very positive and hopeful that this is the way the majority of the countries and parties here in Paris are thinking about and are believing that this is doable and this is what we are going to do," he said.

People in the Pacific are being called on to share stories of how they've been impacted by climate change with #4PacIslands

People in the Pacific are being called on to share stories of how they've been impacted by climate change with #4PacIslands Photo: Supplied

Mr Sopoaga said the binding agreement must set the target of limiting temperature rise to below 1.5° on pre-industrial times or it will be meaningless.

"I think it's a matter of life and survival for a majority of developing countries.

"For us Tuvalu and other small island developing states in the Pacific, it is the long-term security and survival of the people of the island countries, and this is our red line that cannot be crossed, we do that or we forget about an agreement or even a decision out of COP21."

He said the 1.5° limit had been well advocated and supported by Least Developed Countries (LDCs), G-77 (the Group of 77 is the largest intergovernmental organization of developing countries in the United Nations), including China and also been greatly encouraged by the European Union and like-minded states.

Tuvalu Enele Sopoaga

Tuvalu's Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga. Photo: RNZI / Jamie Tahana

He said although there might be a split in priorities between developing and developed nations, it was in everyone's interests.

"We [Pacific islands] may be up in the forefront but the whole world will feel these consequences if nothing is done urgently, this is for the whole human race."

"I don't think these differences are insurmountable ... they are doable and I think there is goodwill to try to converge."

Mr Sopoaga said loss and damage effects must also be recognised in the agreement.

"Loss and damage as a stand alone, separate from adaptation because this is to deal with existential problems that are already being forecasted including displacement of people, particularly from atoll nations like Tuvalu, we're already seeing.

"Therefore we need to have loss and damage properly anchored in the agreement out of Paris. Loss and damage must also spell clearly insurance coverage and risk management and also to deal with displaced and the slow onset impacts of climate change."

He said they expected more from the New Zealand government.

"To commit more and join the global consensus that is emerging ... the Pacific island countries are working closely with like minded countries, unfortunately New Zealand is not joining this. We appreciate what it has put on the table but I think we expect more."