During the last leg of negotiations at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) this week in Poland, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu – an island nation of about 11,000 people located in the South Pacific acutely threatened by climate change – has called on the Commonwealth to leverage its 53-strong membership for climate action.
“The Commonwealth as a body is in a very strategically important place to leverage the voices [and] amplify the concerns of member countries, particularly those small island states,” said Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga. “I’m grateful for the work of the Commonwealth on small states and their unique vulnerabilities, but we need to push on and leverage other communities and other groups of like-minded countries.”
Nearly 200 nations are gathered in the Polish city of Katowice to discuss a common “rulebook” for implementing climate commitments made under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Negotiations have been challenging, especially around issues of climate finance, transparency, and the special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which calls for far-reaching efforts to keep global temperatures below 1.50C.
“We need to review the pledge that we did in Paris three years ago, particularly whether we are delivering on this or not. What we are seeing is that there is no delivery – in fact, there is serious backtrack on that, influenced by the decisions of one country,” said Hon Sopoaga.
Referring to the United States’ decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, he said it must not “derail” others, given the dire consequences of inaction:
“The impacts are already being felt by the people there is a serious erosion on the islands, particularly low-lying atolls like Tuvalu, Kiribati, the Maldives and the Marshall Islands. We are already feeling the intrusion into food crops and vegetation on the islands, droughts, and also the bleaching of the corals in the oceans and the disturbance to the stocks of tuna and fisheries… It’s not something that’s going to be a threat [in the future] – it is already threatening the livelihood of the people.”
Hon Sopoaga added that the Commonwealth Secretariat could assist member countries by providing literature and information to delegations at COP gatherings, as well as offering scholarships or training for young people to be climate scientists or negotiators.
The COP24 meetings are scheduled to conclude this Friday 14 December.