22 Nov 2013

Pacific Island countries speak out against lack of action at COP19

6:38 pm on 22 November 2013

Pacific Island countries have used an international climate change conference in Poland to speak out about a lack of action from developed nations to reduce carbon emissions.

COP 19 - the 19th Conference of Parties to the United Nations' Framework Convention on Climate Change - finishes on November 22 after two weeks of negotiations.

But small island states - which will suffer most as the climate changes - appear skeptical that the outcome will make any meaningful difference to them.

Annell Husband filed this report.

The Convention's executive secretary, Christiana Figueres, told delegates that the world is ready to tackle climate change, saying there is a groundswell of climate action as the risks of inaction materialise. But the Pacific Island countries represented at the conference gave a different account. Nauru's president Baron Waqa told delegates the Alliance of Small Island States - a group of 44 low-lying islands and coastal countries - has put forward sensible proposals on loss and damage. But he accused those countries most responsible for climate change of retreating from their moral responsibility and obligation to act.

"BARON WAQA: Consequently we are lacking the urgent ambition required to lower emissions in the short time we have to avert catastrophe. We are missing the clarity on finance that is needed to realise our mitigation opportunities and prepare vulnerable communities for impacts that have become impossible to avoid."

A Fiji government minister spoke on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, a coalition of developing countries formed under the UN to articulate and promote collective economic interests chaired this year by Fiji. Jiko Luveni urged developed countries to show leadership, saying developing countries have done more than their share of fighting climate change.

JIKO LUVENI: Three years after its launching in Durban, the Green Climate Fund, as I speak, remains an empty shell. It is absolutely necessary that we see a rapid and substantial initial capitalisation and an ambitious resource mobilisation for the GCF for 2014.

Under the Green Climate Fund, industrialized countries have committed to provide funds rising to 100 billion US dollars per year by 2020 to help limit global warming to two degrees celsius. To achieve that, the GCF is intended to give support to developing countries to help limit or reduce their emissions as well as to adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change. The Kiribati environment minister, Tiarite Kwong, told delegates that support is far too long in coming.

TIARITE KWONG: The Green Climate Fund needs to be operationised and resourced as soon as possible so it can start its operations by the end of 2014. Kiribati is very concerned at the current lack of ambition to reduce greenhouse gases.

Tiarite Kwong says in Kiribati climate change is already causing severe coastal erosion, displacement and food and water shortages.