Oceans Pathway launched

THE Pacific Islands made their biggest political statement at COP23 in Germany when they formed a partnership to launch the process of getting the oceans agenda on the climate change framework by 2020.

Led by the United Nations special envoy for the Ocean Peter Thomson, who is also Fiji’s permanent representative to the UN, the partnership was signed between Fiji, Samoa, Marshall Islands, Sweden, Norway and key donour partners in Bonn on the second last day of COP23.

“We all know about climate change, but the ocean is changing in a fundamental way too. So just as we have climate action, we need oceans action that everybody is involved in,” he said.

Mr Thomson said the bad news around oceans demanded that it be a critical part of the UN climate change process as well as the whole conversation around climate change.

He called it ridiculous that climate action discussions did not include ‘the blue whale’ of the oceans.

“I really hope that all you climate diplomats, negotiators and activists ensure that over the next two years this launch of the oceans pathway is successful.

“I’d like to see a firm track for the oceans to be part of the UNFCCC process.”

The Attorney-General and Minister Responsible for Climate Change, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who spoke on behalf of the COP23 presidency, said Sweden which had co-chaired the UN Oceans Conference in June in New York City with Fiji would also partner with them on the oceans pathway.

“Our message from the Pacific Island countries is that if we don’t fix our oceans, we are unlikely to find a solution to climate change. We need a resilient ocean that can continue its function for climate,” he said.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the pathway would take two paths “to navigate a space for the ocean in the UNFCCC” and the other was to involve non-state partners in order to raise the bar on actions.

The launch, which begins efforts to create a working committee and a secretariat to be based in Suva, is the soft landing answer to calls to get oceans into the agenda for COP23.

Taholo Kami, former head of the IUCN in the Pacific and oceans advisor to the Fiji delegation at Bonn, said last week the COP23 presidency decided upon a soft approach to ensure the pathway would get traction and have a higher chance of making the COP25 agenda in 2020.

Meanwhile, WWF policy officer Alfred Ralifo welcomed the move and said the Oceans Pathway strategy was extremely important.

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