PACNEWS – 02:21 am GMT+12, 04/12/2020, Fiji
The Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General has used her premium invite to deliver the Christiana Figueres Oration at the 7th Australasian Emission Reduction Summit, to issue a strong call for urgent action.
“If there is any chance left to save ourselves from this climate crisis, we are going to have to act now”, she told last night’s plenary at the 2020 Australasian Emission Reduction Summit.
Dame Meg was invited to deliver the keynote address, established by the summit founders to honour a key architect of the Paris Agreement,Christiana Figueres. She wasted no time in calling for the world to honour the Agreement, which marks its five year turning point this month.
“The onus lies with us all to follow through on the commitments made in the Paris Agreement. It is our roadmap for survival, as we battle against the climate change crisis,” she told the virtual event. “I accepted this opportunity to address this summit because I am convinced that true and meaningful climate change action can only be achieved if we all work together. It has to be a collective responsibility – and the private sector has a key role in ensuring that there is ambition in achieving climate targets.”
Highlighting the severity of the climate change crisis facing the Pacific, the need for strong and decisive action to strengthen resilience; and “the absolute importance of strong commitment to, and action on, climate change at the global level”, Dame Meg said the Kainaki Lua Declaration for Urgent Climate Change Action Now, settled in Tuvalu in 2019, continued to represent the regions political commitment to urgent climate change action.
“Despite our negligible contribution to global emission levels, we are at the forefront of the battle against climate change. Our Leaders define this climate crisis as the greatest threat to the region which is an existential threat.”
“2020 is on track to be one of the three warmest years on record globally, ending what has been the hottest decade in human history. Today, we are already at 1.2 degrees of global warming. On this current trajectory, some of our low-lying atoll islands will be uninhabitable within our lifetime.”
Noting the daily impact of of global warming across the region, she presented the Pacific reality. “Our sea levels are rising and impacting coastal societies. The increased intensity and frequency of extreme weather patterns and events are inflicting unprecedented damage and destruction on our countries and economies, and Ocean acidification is reorientating migratory patterns of tuna in our Pacific waters, which will have significant implications on Pacific economies and by relation the global fisheries trade.”
The Kainaki II decleration from Forum Leaders pointed to climate change as an existential threat to the region and the ‘single greatest threat’ to the livelihood and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific.
“Indeed, the science is clear – it is imperative that we limit temperature rise to 1.5-degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to ensure our children inherit a safe and healthy planet. Yet, despite what the latest science is telling us, the world continues to increase its greenhouse gas emissions and is fixed on a track that will see a catastrophic temperature rise of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius at the turn of this century,” Dame Meg said.
She pointed to Cyclone Pam in 2015 which wiped out 64 percent of Vanuatu’s GDP overnight, Cyclone Winston wreaked havoc in Fiji with damages totalling 31 percent of GDP in 2016, and in 2018, Cyclone Gita which caused destruction in Tonga equivalent to 38 percent of GDP while Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands was besieged by both Cyclone Harold and COVID-19 which severely impacted local people and local economies.
“Throughout these disasters, our private sector in the Pacific were at the mercy of private capital and government support and concessional financings to rebuild their enterprises. In Australia, the bushfires at the start of this year was estimated to cost the Australian economy $5 billion (US$3.7 billion) in direct losses and $20 billion(US$14.8 billion) in lost output.”
“Five years on from the Paris Agreement, we must take stock and seriously ask ourselves – Are we keeping our promises? Are we honouring our commitments in the Agreement? Are we doing enough to influence positive behavioural change?” she said.