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Civil society wants stronger agenda

Lice Movono
Wednesday, November 01, 2017

AS he responded to civil servants who had gathered to wish him well ahead of his departure for COP23, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said some strong words.

The PM told civil servants that the time to encourage the world's top carbon emitters towards a greener economy using only diplomatic words were over.

Fiji and Pacific civil society, in a rare situation, agree completely with the incoming president of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

At the pre-COP ministerial dialogue held in Nadi from October 16-18, civil society representatives from across Fiji and some with a regional and international scope took the time to listen to the COP23 leaders and organisers about their priorities.

Those priorities as announced by PM Bainimarama are:

• Showcasing best practice for transformative climate action and enhanced ambition — the facilitative dialogue;

• Doing our part to make the Paris Agreement fully operational — the Rule Book;

• Ensuring benefits of action are shared with those more traditionally marginalised, gender and indigenous people;

• Taking care of the most vulnerable — loss and damage and insurance; and

• Strengthening the link between ocean health and climate action.

During pre-COP, civil society organisations (CSO) were given a never before opportunity for a bilateral meet with a high ranking United Nations official in the form of the deputy secretary general, Amina Mohammed.

Seated in that CSO-UN meeting was Krishneil Narayan, the co-ordinator of a 58-member strong Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN) and Matisse Walkden-Brown, Greenpeace Australia Pacific's Fiji-based head of Pacific net.

While both leaders agree the meeting was positive given it was the first ever high level UN meeting specifically with CSOs, Ms Walkden-Brown said the meeting was a reminder too of the role that non-government partners have to play.

The meeting was organised with the goal of ensuring CSOs had direct communication with the movers and shakers of the UN system, but it also became an opportunity for local activists, and there were CSO players from areas outside of the traditional green community present too, to learn from Ms Mohamed, the abilities and lack thereof, of the UN.

"It was a good reminder that a lot of the real work needs to happen outside these bureaucratic and sometimes restrictive spaces. Even the seemingly most powerful groups are relying on us to be innovative, set new standards and go first," the Greenpeace Pacific leader said.

Mr Narayan said Ms Mohammed had reminded CSOs of the need to be creative with their interventions so that initiatives taken with regards to climate change were happening at the right levels.

"Sometimes we do our work at national levels, not realising that maybe there is more efficiency at local and even community level," he said.

Both young leaders are heading to Bonn, Germany, where they will observe COP23 hopeful, the Fijian Prime Minister's strong words in the Pacific that will translate into even stronger more decisive action.

For Greenpeace, the ultimate goal is to keep fossil fuels in the ground and efforts to make this happen continues despite the positive euphoria surrounding COP23 because it believes there are some countries whose narratives aren't matching actions.

"Fiji should take this opportunity to push for a true commitment on the phase out fossil fuels. A commitment that can be monitored and enforced. This should (enable) monitoring and regulating countries abilities to supply of fossil fuels," Ms Walkden-Brown said.

"Despite much of the world committing to the Paris Agreement, there are a number of countries who are simultaneously ramping up supply and search for new fossil fuels exports. While it is important we continue calling for higher ambition, it is important to demand action and accountability for already decided, declared and signed targets."

Eager to progress the climate finance agenda, Greenpeace would like for Fiji to remind world leaders that money for adaptation was not aid.

"Fiji must also make the case for itself and other similar states that have already been impacted by climate change and need finance for adaptation measures. This money should not be treated as loans or leverage, it is a debt owed to the Pacific," she said.

Mr Narayan, who has been to every COP since Copenhagen (2009), is pleased with Fiji's five priorities going into COP because he said they were what CSOs found important too.

An area important to most climate change community priories is loss and damage, which is what happens when countries have gone and beyond adaptation of climate change.

"What happens if all of that soil, all the land has completely gone and disappeared. Like in the case of Tuvalu and Kiribati, what happens when they are integrating into Fiji. There are challenges that are going to be happening there — who pays for those things? Who is liable for those things?," Mr Narayan said.

The Pacific Islands Association of NGO's asked what many are thinking but which may not be very visible, given the excitement of the first ever Pacific or Small Island States led COP — what happens next?

"What after the Paris Agreement agenda.

"The DSG was very accommodating and positive about the role of CSOs in the climate effort and the importance were emphasised many times, but my priority is to highlight — what after COP23," Akmal Ali of the PIANGO said.

"We need to highlight the need for polluters to be taken to task."

Greenpeace suggests loss and damage guidelines be a performance indicator of COP23 and says the meeting must produce a process that ensures vulnerable countries are paid for loss and damage to their islands.

While CSOs agree the COP23 agenda includes important discussion topics and intended outcomes they support, all of that work as Greenpeace says is only "a piece of the larger puzzle, towards climate safety and justice for the Pacific and other vulnerable people".

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