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Pacific leaders join forces ahead of landmark climate summit

Climate Change in American Samoa front cover
Source: SPC: Pacific Community press release

PACIFIC ISLANDS — Pacific leaders on Thursday met COP26 president Alok Sharma to set out their priorities for the major climate change summit in November.

The major UN climate change summit, known as COP26, an event the UK will co-host with Italy is the most important climate summit since the landmark Paris Agreement at COP21 in 2015.

Underscoring what is at stake for the Pacific, leaders and Ministers from 11 countries across the Pacific region joined a virtual dialogue hosted by the UK to outline their commitment to ramping up climate action and urged for more decisive action from the largest greenhouse gas emitters.

This major event slated for Glascow, Scotland from October 31 –November 12.— will bring world leaders together to discuss and agree urgent action to tackle the climate crisis.

With Pacific countries at the frontline of the impacts of climate change – from more extreme weather to rising sea levels and coastal erosion – the region has a unique moral authority on climate change and can play a crucial role in framing the agenda during COP26 to drive more ambitious action from the biggest emitting countries.

During yesterday’s UK-Pacific Climate Dialogue, representatives from Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, Palau, Tuvalu, Niue, Republic of Marshall Islands, Cook Islands, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Nauru and Samoa outlined the disproportionate and devastating impacts climate change – a phenomenon not of their creation – has on livelihoods across the Pacific region.

They urged further ambitious action from developed countries around the world to curb emissions and limit global warming to 1.5°C, and called for COP26 to deliver a step-up in finance for Small Island Developing States both in mitigation and adaptation action. They also underlined the importance of ocean issues in climate negotiations. 

The event was hosted by COP26 president, Alok Sharma, who reaffirmed his commitment to an inclusive COP26 that delivers for the most climate vulnerable countries, including those across the Pacific.

 “The discussions we have had today set important foundations for Glasgow, as we move toward building agreements that work for everyone, particularly those most affected by climate change,” Sharma said.

“Pacific islands are at the forefront of a crisis they did next to nothing to cause, with a temperature rise above 1.5°C presenting an existential threat to their future. Many are showing real leadership on tackling climate change. The G20 and other major emitters now have a moral responsibility to follow this example, and that of the G7, by taking urgent action to keep 1.5°C alive.”

Climate activist and youth leader from the Solomon Islands, Gladys Habu, also joined the event to urge countries to step up action.

She said, “My only request is that each respective Pacific island country must prioritise the climate crisis by declaring it a climate emergency. This declaration will be symbolic of your national commitment to my generation. 

“We contribute almost nothing yet we are at risk of losing everything. Please come and stand in our seas and feel for yourself the urgency and importance of your responsibility. The loss of my beloved Kale is my line in the sand and should be a red flag for our global community.”

With Pacific Island Countries playing an important role in pushing for greater ambition from bigger emitting countries, the high-level dialogue event is a key milestone on the road to COP26.

COP26 will bring together world leaders to commit to urgent global climate action, focusing on four goals:

  • Mitigation: Securing global net zero emissions by the middle of the century and reducing emissions by 50% by 2030 to keep the goal of limiting temperature rises to 1.5 degrees within reach;
  • Adaptation: Helping countries affected by climate change to adapt to protect communities and natural habitats;
  • Finance: Mobilising at least $100 billion per year in finance from developed countries to support climate action;
  • Collaboration: Working together with businesses, civil society and governments to rise to the challenges of the climate crisis.

The UK is using its COP Presidency to urge all countries to set targets to get to net zero by the middle of the century, and to come forward with ambitious 2030 emissions reduction targets.

Around 70 percent of the world economy is now covered by net zero targets, up from less than 30 percent when the UK took on the COP26 Presidency.

The UK Government will continue to work closely with Pacific partners over the coming months to understand their priorities and ambitions for COP26.