Pacific island nations on the front line of the climate crisis are reacting to the recent agreement at Cop28, stating that it does not support their survival. They have expressed concern and disappointment with the deal.
Lavenia Naivalu spoke to Cop28 this month, stating that they are currently facing challenges and doing their utmost to persevere.
A representative from the Pacific Islands, who is of iTaukei descent and hails from Yasawa Island in Fiji, addressed the annual climate conference on behalf of Indigenous communities. She emphasized that the increasing sea levels and sudden floods pose a significant danger to the daily lives of Fijians. Just last month, landslides and road blockages were caused by two flash floods in the central and eastern regions of Fiji.
Small nations like Fiji, who have been advocating for stronger measures to address climate change, were anticipating that Cop28 would provide a significant international pledge to mitigate its devastating impact on their coastlines.
However, even with a significant agreement on funding for loss and damage and reducing fossil fuel usage, those at the forefront of the climate emergency are dissatisfied with the ultimate deal that fails to address the harsh truth of a swiftly heating planet.
“The area has been infiltrated.”
On November 30th, the first day of the conference, a significant fund was created to aid developing countries in mitigating the effects of climate change. Following this, the heads of nearly 200 nations reached a consensus on a climate agreement that urges all countries to shift away from using non-renewable energy sources.
Sultan Al Jaber, the president of Cop28, received praise for successfully achieving the commitments. However, according to Drue Slatter, a communications manager for 350.org and a Pacific climate campaigner, the small island countries deserve much of the credit for their longstanding efforts in advocating for vulnerable nations.
Despite being significant victories, numerous campaigners and negotiators from the Pacific region argue that the agreement falls short of addressing the issue adequately.
According to Slatter, it can be difficult to understand cop summits, which involve discussions and revisions of previously introduced or approved texts from past conferences.
Although Pacific island countries showed unity by sending messages to negotiators to stand firm, Cop28 was challenging due to being hosted by the United Arab Emirates, a nation that produces fossil fuels, and having a high attendance of lobbyists from the fossil fuel industry.
During the course of Cop28, discussions intensified regarding the wording of the agreement: should the global community aim to “eliminate” or “reduce” the use of fossil fuels? Ultimately, the language was weakened to “shift away”.
Slatter explains that this situation does not support our ability to survive. The large number of 2,456 lobbyists at Cop28 indicates that the integrity of the space has been compromised. As a result, the end result includes loopholes that ultimately favor the fossil fuel industry.
If we continue to include these offenders in the UNFCCC process, we will only witness small changes instead of significant ones.
The Aosis, or Alliance of Small Island States, played a crucial role in the negotiations during Cop28 by diligently organizing the 39 small island developing states that bear the brunt of climate change. However, in a poignant moment, Aosis was not present in the room when the decision on the global stocktake text was officially announced.
Every five years, the global stocktake evaluates the world’s efforts towards addressing climate change, highlighting areas where countries need to improve in order to inform future strategies. This process helps guide policymakers and stakeholders in making stronger commitments to fulfill the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
After the stocktake text was finalized, Aosis released a statement stating that it included several positive aspects, but the necessary adjustments have not yet been made.
Aosis stated that instead of small improvements, we require a significant and drastic change in our actions and support.
In paragraph 26, there is no indication of a promise or even a suggestion for parties to reduce emissions by 2025. While we acknowledge scientific evidence throughout the text, we ultimately do not make a commitment to take necessary action in accordance with what the science dictates.
The partnership expressed multiple worries, such as sections about reducing emissions that may be interpreted as supporting more growth in fossil fuels, and a list of exceptions that do not effectively end subsidies or move us beyond the current state.
“We must not fail due to financial constraints.”
During the last day of the convention, the leader of the United Nations, António Guterres, conveyed a statement to those who opposed the inclusion of a “phase out” of fossil fuels in the final document: “I would like to emphasize that a gradual elimination of fossil fuels is unavoidable, regardless of their stance on the matter.”
“Hopefully, it won’t arrive too late.”
In the Pacific it is already too late. The impacts of climate change are happening now, with cyclones, droughts and rising sea levels compromising people’s basic human rights.
During the Cop28 negotiations, the Pacific team faced significant resistance from major emitting countries. However, they made a substantial impact in advocating for global recognition of the urgent need for survival in their island nations.
Aosis stated that it is crucial for us to not go back to our islands with the message that this process has let us down.
According to Henry Puna, who serves as the secretary general for the Pacific Islands Forum, had the world listened to our plea a decade or two ago, we wouldn’t be facing the current situation where we have to consider drastic measures such as leaving our homes, ancestral lands, and way of life behind.
James Bhagwan, who serves as the secretary general of the Pacific Conference of Churches and is a passionate supporter of climate justice, was present at Cop28 to offer assistance to negotiators and activists. He emphasized the significance of allies of the Pacific showing their solidarity.
Bhagwan fondly recalled his November meeting with Australia’s environment minister, Chris Bowen, in Canberra, saying: “It was good to hear some of the projects that Australia is working on domestically in their transition.”
However, his concern was sparked by the recent statement that Australia cannot entirely eliminate the use of fossil fuels, particularly in light of its plans to co-host Cop31 with the Pacific.
The speaker emphasized the need for significant changes in order to successfully implement an Australia-Pacific conference. He stated that the Pacific region must achieve a victory in order to make this possible.
Bhagwan posed a challenge to politicians, urging them to prioritize the well-being of the entire planet and the Pacific people over their own political careers.
Although Cop28 may not have met the Pacific’s expectations, the region is thankful for any progress made and remains optimistic that more effective changes will occur in the future.
According to Bhagwan, our personal experience indicates that we are quickly running out of time, and the outcomes of most of these law enforcement officers further reinforces this belief.
Our leaders and negotiators frequently leave these meetings feeling disheartened, as their diligent efforts are often undermined at the final moments.
We require those who claim to be on our team to actually support us at this moment.