‘Action begins now before it’s too late’: President Maamau

Taneti Maamau

Kiribati has called on the 27th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (UNFCCC COP) to be more ambitious about the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Speaking to world leaders during the High-Level plenary in Sharm El-Sheikh, Kiribati President, Taneti Maamau, reminded that climate change is real and his people continue to suffer the consequences of decisions made at the annual conference but are not followed up, financed and implemented.

“Consequently, for frontline countries like Kiribati this is detrimental to our sovereign desire to safeguard our future. Climate change is happening, loss and damage is real,” Maamau said.

“I appeal to my fellow leaders to stand in solidarity together to protect the future of our people, our young generation. We must be held accountable to our climate finance commitments to save our home. Action begins here and now before it is too late.”

The President of Kiribati said the climate target of 1.5 degrees cannot continue to be negotiated for the sake of merely talking.

“Kiribati is at the mercy of the decisions being made here,” he said. “This year, Kiribati declared a state of disaster… The impact of storm surges and extreme king tides continue to be a threat to our economy, our future developments, destroying the very fabric of our livelihoods.”

Despite all these challenges, the President remains optimistic.

“We remain hopeful that our collective efforts through partnerships will address these concerns…we need data, capacity building and technology transfer to make our adaptation and planning much more effective,” said President Maamau.

“Our commitment to building resilience is driven by the desire of the people to remain living in Kiribati. We will continue to strengthen our legislative and policy frameworks, including the recently enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions. The cost of maintaining our livelihoods in the face of climate change already exceeds our means, yet it doesn’t dampen our resolve to put resources where we can,” he said.

Vanuatu President seeks support for ICJ resolution

Meanwhile, Vanuatu’s President has strongly appealed to world leaders at the climate summit in Egypt to vote in favor for Vanuatu’s climate justice resolution that will be tabled at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) soon.

The UNGA will be asked to vote on the resolution seeking the world’s highest court, International Court of Justice (ICJ) to deliver an advisory opinion on climate change obligations under international law in a few weeks.

President Nikenike Vurobaravu told over 100 leaders at the summit that the time has come for ICJ to consider climate change. He said young people are demanding climate justice and their fundamental human rights of the younger generation must be protected.

“We can no longer measure climate success only in tons of carbon, or degrees of Celsius, but in the lives saved and human rights maintained. The ICJ will help to clarify our work here at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to help us put human and environmental rights at the center of climate change decision-making,” he said.

“Vanuatu is of the view that states already have, under international law, existing legal obligations to protect the rights of present and future generations from adverse impacts of climate change. Vanuatu is also of the view that states have, under numerous exiting treaties, legal obligations to prevent significant harm to the climate system and other parts of the environment.

“The UNFCCC was not intended to operate in isolation, nor does it absolve any party of their existing legal obligations under the other treaties they have ratified.

“To meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, and save the UNFCCC, states will benefit from a reminder of these existing obligations under international law.

“This legal clarity on climate obligations is exactly what Vanuatu, alongside a global coalition of more than 85 nations is calling for, from the UN’s ICJ.

“The Court’s multilateral process will be inclusive, open to high and low emitting states, developed and developing nations. And the resulting advisory opinion from ICJ will make it crystal clear what climate acts or emissions by all states may hold legal consequences under international law. To strengthen Nationally Determined actions, we must strengthen our understanding of and reverence for the rule of International Law. This climate crisis is no exception.”

The President said Vanuatu’s proposal will inspire real action, and to save the intention of the Paris Agreement, and the effectiveness and integrity of the UN Convention on Climate Change

“Excellencies, as the World’s Leaders, we must not give up on this process, but we must change course, and we must use all tools to fix the broken and siloed economic, social and legal systems that have led us to this catastrophic place,” he said.

President Vurobaravu begun his address by expressing concern on the ongoing emissions increase, inadequate climate finance and the climate injustice suffered daily across the planet.

“How can we continue to express diplomatic niceties here, and yet invest in new carbon projects at home, resulting in communities uprooted from their ancestral lands by climate fueled disasters; men, women and children unable to meet their daily needs due to climate extreme and slow onset events. Fundamental human rights are being undermined, every minute of every day, by our continued collective addiction to fossil fuels,” he said.

“The current ambition in Nationally Determined Contributions is insufficient, leading us to even greater loss, damage and human suffering. “Our systems are broken. This system is broken,” he said.