UN Climate Change Conference – COP 23

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UN Climate Change Conference – COP 23

The UNFCCC COP23 is officially under way after an exciting opening ceremony. President of UNFCCC COP22 in Marrakech last year, H.E. Mr. Salaheddine Mezouar, talked about the triumphs of the Moroccan presidency and paid tribute to Fiji.

“Small Island Developing States [SIDS] need assistance urgently to adapt to climate change. We need all developed countries to respect the 2020 agreement and produce the US$100 billion a year. Only with global action for climate can we alleviate the current suffering.”

Mr Mezouar told the delegates at COP23 that history will remember what happens in the negotiations in Bonn in the next two weeks.

''Humanity is watching. I must reiterate – negotiations are important but action is more important.''

Prime Minister Voreqe ‘Frank’ Bainimarama, president of UNFCCC COP23  spoke about how Fiji was one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. He gave a collective plea on behalf of all similarly vulnerable Pacific Islands.

“The need for urgency is obvious. Destructive hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes and droughts are already here. There is also a threat to agricultural lands. 2016 had the record for carbon emissions.”

“Our jobs as leaders is to put all our resources available to stop the suffering. Protect our people. We need to meet our commitments not back away from them.”

He also spoke of the need to keep the global temperature to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. He acknowledged what a serious challenge this would be, but said:

“This gives us a mission. We must engage our capacity for innovation and collaboration and for sheer hard work. Failure opens our people up to suffering.”

The Fijian word “Talanoa” means conversations that are meaningful, rich and frank without concealment and that build and strengthen relationships. Mr Bainimarama said that he was bringing the spirit of Talanoa to Bonn and that this would be the best way to achieve, collectively, what is necessary. After all, “we are all in the same canoe”.

The other members of the opening panel all spoke after the President of COP23. These included: Patricia Espinosa, the Executive-Secretary of the UNFCCC; Petteri Taalas, the Secretary-General of WMO; Hoesung Lee, the Chair of IPCC; Barbara Hendricks, Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety of Germany; and Ashok-Alexander Sridharan, the Mayor of Bonn.

After hailing the achievements of both the Paris and Marrakech COPs, Patricia Espinosa said:

 “We need to go from an era of hope to an era of implementation, but never before have we been in an era of such urgency. We need to fully address climate change and sustainable development.”

“Right now, more people than ever are suffering from extreme weather events. While we are filled with compassion for these victims, we know that this is just the beginning – a preview of what is to come.”

Petteri Taalas of WMO reinforced this by saying how since 1850 when records began, 2017 is going to be in the top three warmest years without El Nino.

Nearing the end of the ceremony, Hoesung Lee of IPCC hailed the international collaboration of scientists who are diligently working of the current climate problem.

Barbara Hendricks talked of the friendship that had sprung up between Germany and Fiji during COP preparations and of her countries support for Fiji.

“Climate change is scientifically proven. The impacts are felt today - it is the biggest threat we face. The Paris agreement is irreversible and we do not have much time left.”