Tackling climate change is ‘global responsibility of our time,’ Dominica Foreign Minister tells UN Assembly
Noting that poverty, inequality and violence are also shared responsibilities, she maintained that “their modem-day manifestations are wrapped up in climate change.”
Saying that it arises from activities that support and reflect inequalities, she emphasized that “it is the poor who suffer most.”
“Much violence stems directly from climate-change-induced scarcity of things, like water, or productive lands,” she elaborated, citing climate change as “the main symptom of our world’s broken economy, society and humanity.”
Ms. Baron noted that the global community has neither agreed on an implementation plan for the commitments made in Paris in 2015, nor mobilized the agreed-upon $100 billion annually to assist the most vulnerable in adapting and mitigating against harmful climate change effects.
“While we have failed to live up to these commitments, arctic ice shelves continue to melt at an alarming rate,” she explained. “The oceans continue to get warmer; hurricanes and storms continue to develop and threaten our countries, drought becomes more severe and flooding more pronounced.”
The Foreign Minister warned against perpetual pontification on the subject while punishing rains wreck lives and livelihoods – but urged instead to use our collective efforts to arrest it.
“It is no secret that the lack of motivation by some countries to take the required actions, is rooted in this economic truth: that those who gain most from the activities that create climate change, remain the most removed from its dire consequences,” Ms. Baron underscored.
Last year, she said that Hurricane Maria unleashed 180 miles per-hour winds that brought Dominica to its knees. Immediately afterwards, “our people, raised their battered and wounded selves and began the daunting task of search and rescue, clearing roadways and quickly moved thereafter into a rebuilding mode.”
After international experts completed Dominica’s post-disaster needs assessment, they concluded that in a few hours, a single hurricane “caused loss and damage equivalent to 226 per cent of our country s GDP [gross domestic product],” while “a mere two years prior, a tropical storm, had wiped out the equivalent of 90 per cent” of it.
The cost of building a resilient nation, “comes with a price tag far in excess of what small developing States, like Dominica, are able to meet singlehandedly,” she flagged.
“As I speak to you this minute, dangerous storms are gathering in the western Atlantic,” she said. “As climate change warms the seas and feeds the rainstorms, the risk of future loss and damage grow.”
Arguing that climate change is not “a freak of nature,” but man-made, she encouraged the global leader to let history record what was done, not was said; what efforts were made to globally end climate change and to reduce local vulnerabilities.
“We, together, must grasp this moment,” concluded the Foreign Minister.
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Pacific Islands on the front line of climate change: UN chief
The meeting, at UN Headquarters in New York, comes shortly after the organization’s annual summit, in Nauru on 3-6 September, which reaffirmed in an official communiqué known as the Boe Declaration, that “climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific.”
Mr. Guterres said that, with COP24 (the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) coming up in November, and the UN Climate Summit scheduled for September 2019, the world needs to urgently step up action, adding that climate change is absolute priority: “I am very concerned. It will be the central concern to ensure countries enhance their ambitions over the next two years. For the moment, unfortunately we are going too slow regarding what we promised in Paris. And what we promised in Paris was not enough.”
The Secretary-General thanked the PIF for including climate change as a security issue at the Nauru summit: the Boe Declaration expands the PIF’s concept of security to include “human security, humanitarian assistance, prioritizing environmental security and regional cooperation in building resilience to disasters and climate change.”
He recognized the efforts of the PIF to prevent conflict, citing the leadership of Solomon Islands Prime Minister, Rick Hou, in taking forward peacebuilding priorities, and congratulating the Government of Papua New Guinea and the Autonomous Bougainville Government on implementing the Bougainville Peace Agreement.
The PIF has taken a robust, regional approach to the implementation of The 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development and the SAMOA Pathway (which outlines action to be taken by Small Island Developing States), an approach appreciated by the Secretary-General.
With several members of the Forum showing improved economic growth, and close to leaving the “Least Developed Countries” socio-economic bracket, the UN Chief stated the UN’s commitment to supporting graduating countries on their sustained path to development and prosperity: “Many countries that graduate continue to face shocks. It is important that the international community, including international financial institutions, continues to recognize this.”
He also commended action by Forum States to end gender-based violence in the Pacific – strengthening women’s political and economic participation and deepening women’s rights – and continuing efforts to expand opportunities for young people in the region.
The Secretary-General concluded by thanking Pacific Island leaders for their support in the ongoing UN reform effort, promising to continue seeking their inputs and perspectives, and making a personal commitment to work with them for a safer, more secure and prosperous future for the people of the Pacific region.
Forum leaders welcomed the Secretary-General’s leadership on climate change, calling for the appointment of a Special Adviser on Climate Change and Security, to strengthen the global focus on climate change as a security risk.
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On Day four of UN Assembly debate, leaders from vulnerable island States turn out in force to plead for climate action
Island States have spoken on previous days, but on Friday a total of 10 island leaders took turns explaining to world Heads of State and Government not only the catastrophic impacts of climate change caused by centuries of industrial pollution from northern nations, but the disadvantages they face in the financial domain as soon as they improve the lot of their people.
A jumble of acronyms, but little action
As soon as a country graduates from the status of low income country – or least developed country (LDC) in UN parlance – with an annual per capita gross national income (GNI) below $1,005, to middle-income country (MIC), with a GNI between $1,005 and $12,235, it loses access to concessionary financing, as St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Michael Chastanet explained, noting the acronyms weighing down his Caribbean State.
“I stand before you today as a leader of a small Island developing State – a SIDS, which is also a middle- income country – a MIC,’ he said.
“The world acknowledges our ‘acronyms,’ but little or nothing changes… We continue to struggle under the weight of international frameworks that do not provide an enabling environment for my country to chart an effective sustainable development path, or even to be able to take control of our own destiny.”
Paris Accord can help turn the tide to fund climate action
From the Pacific island nation of Samoa, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, said it was a moral imperative for the world to act decisively and collectively, calling for full implementation of the Paris climate accord that seeks to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels.
“Climate change poses the single greatest threat especially to small Island developing states like Samoa, not through our doing or choice,” he said, alluding to the fact those most vulnerable to climate change’s impact are those who contributed least to global warming.
“The Pacific region is already facing the destructive impacts of climate change and disasters – cyclones, floods, droughts. Sea level rise and ocean acidification are taking their toll on the health and the wellbeing of our peoples, environment and economies. Disaster-related economic losses in Pacific island countries as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) are higher than almost anywhere else in the world,” he added.
“The United Nations remains our last best hope to provide the political will and the necessary commitment to turn the tide against climate change.”
From the Indian Ocean, Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth of Mauritius took a global view of the issue.
“As we have seen in California, the Carolinas, the Philippines, China, Europe and elsewhere, the frequency of extreme weather events demonstrates that the impacts of climate change can affect every country on every continent. Hurricanes, floods, droughts, and wildfires are becoming deadlier,” he warned.
“Without a renewed global commitment to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects we will fail to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement, and endanger our planet as well as our own survival.”
On cue, Tropical Storm Kirk barrels down on the Caribbean
Prime Minister Hubert A. Minnis of the Bahamas highlighted the enormous dangers facing the Caribbean islands, with economies dependent on tourism under dire threat.
“We see this in rising sea levels, the loss of coral reefs, the increased volume of acid in our oceans, and more severe and frequent hurricanes and typhoons,” he said.
“Tourism is the world’s largest industry. It is also the lifeblood of the Bahamian economy. Millions of tourists travel to the Bahamas annually because of our beautiful turquoise waters and biodiversity,” he added, stressing the vital importance of the sustainable use of the world’s seas and oceans free from pollution, especially of plastics.
We see this in rising sea levels, the loss of coral reefs, and more severe and frequent hurricanes and typhoons – Prime Minister Hubert of the Bahamas
For fellow Caribbean leader, Prime Minister Timothy Harris of St. Kitts and Nevis, it was the unfairness of island States paying for the sins of polluters from elsewhere. “Climate change is largely the consequence of actions of more developed countries, their carbon emissions and harmful lifestyles. Yet SIDS pay an unfair price – a price so high that, for many of us, climate change presents an existential threat.”
He too criticized the financial quirk that punished middle-income countries for their progress. “We reiterate our calls for the international community to address with urgency the sterile measure of per capita income now employed,” he said.
“The international community cannot on the one hand claim to help SIDS while in the same vein classify us as middle- and high-income countries based on archaic financial models that ultimately deny access to critical developmental assistance and hinder investment financing.”
It was a theme taken up by fellow Caribbean leader, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley of Barbados. “Barbados, the Caribbean and other small islands have had to confront the reality that our percentage in trade of goods and services is miniscule, but we are bound by the same rules that apply to those who dominate and can distort global trade,” she said.
“Small States like mine were shepherded out of agriculture and told that services were the route we should use for development. My country, for example, tried financial services pursuant to double taxation treaties, utilizing due diligence, operating a clean jurisdiction that is not a tax haven and complying with Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) requirements.
“Now we are being told our tax practices are harmful and unfair competition to those who still enjoy the bulk of the revenues in global trade and service.”
As if pre-planned to highlight climate change’s devastating effects, Tropical Storm Kirk churned past her country even as she addressed the Assembly, and she left UN Headquarters to return home.
[We] strongly urge the largest emitters of greenhouse gasses to take urgent actions in reducing this harmful emission. Reduce now or regret later – Prime Minister Houenipwela of Solomon Islands
But before she departed, Mrs. Motley, the island nation’s first woman Prime Minister, used the podium to make a fervent appeal for recognition of women’s role in humanity’s progress.
“This United Nations must show leadership in recognizing the talents and contributions of women to human civilization and progress,” she told the Assembly, explain that women have value and give much, whether they labour over smoking wood fires; whether [they] are trapped in poverty because of a lack of opportunity, equality and respect; whether they lead countries; whether they stay at home to care for families; or whether they come to the UN.”
Reduce now or regret later
In the exponentially vaster Pacific region, Fijian Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama laid out the human toll. “I meet thousands of Fijian women, men and children every year who have suffered from the latest wave of climate-related impacts; the cyclones, the flooding, the prolonged droughts, and the steadily rising seas, he said.
“I meet with the farmers whose crops have been washed away, the teachers and students who have lost their schools and the families whose homes have been destroyed. They want their Prime Minister to demand that the world take action on their behalf.”
Fellow Pacific Islander, Prime Minister Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas of Vanuatu demanded that the industrial world step up to plate with the aid they pledged for climate mitigation. “The Governments of the industrialized countries promised to release $100 billion a year in climate funds for vulnerable countries by 2020,” he said.
“We demand that the highest priority be accorded to these pledges and a concrete road plan to mobilize and constitute the promised funds be put in place in the shortest possible time, because climate change is raging fiercely.”
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Ricky Nelson Houenipwela also called for collective global leadership in climate change action and appropriate financial support.
“Solomon Islands joins other Pacific island States in strongly urging the largest emitters of greenhouse gasses to take urgent actions in reducing this harmful emission. Reduce now or regret later,” he warned.
Through their focus was on the potential climatic catastrophe looming over them, this is not to say that the island speakers ignored other world crises including conflict, security and development that figured in the speeches of scores of other world leaders who mounted the podium on day four.
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