COP23 Media Coverage

Please find below selected media coverage from COP23 in Bonn, Germany. For key achievements from COP23, please click here.

Fijian Storytelling Can Save World, Says UN

Once upon a time all the countries of the world tried to get together to save the planet from climate change. There was only one problem: they couldn’t stop sniping at each other. So they decided on a novel approach: to start telling each other stories in an attempt to cut their carbon emissions. This is no fairytale but the new approach adopted by the United Nations at the close of its annual climate change conference in Bonn yesterday.

Over the next year countries will follow the traditional Fijian practice of talanoa in their negotiations — a way of solving problems by sharing ideas, skills and experience through storytelling. The conference was chaired by Fiji.

Island Nations, With No Time to Lose, Take Climate Response into Their Own Hands

So far, the biggest news came midweek, when Germany and Britain announced funding for a long-discussed partnership to promote insurance coverage in island nations vulnerable to disasters. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, the attorney general of Fiji, said that only 10 percent of the island’s properties were insured, which made recovery from disasters like Cyclone Winston —
which devastated the island in 2016 — much slower.

COP23: Key Outcomes Agreed at the UN Climate Talks in Bonn

Countries agreed two years ago in Paris that there should be a one-off moment in 2018 to “take stock” of how climate action was progressing. This information will be used to inform the next round of NDCs, due in 2020.
This way of recognising “enhanced ambition” – a term heard a lot at COPs – was seen as an important precursor of the Paris Agreement’s longer-term “ratchet mechanism”, which aims to increase ambition on a five-year incremental cycle.

Originally called the “facilitative dialogue”, the name of this one-off process in 2018 was changed to “Talanoa dialogue” this year under the Fijian COP presidency. This was to reflect a traditional approach to discussions used in Fiji for an “inclusive, participatory and transparent” process.

Mary Robinson’s Statement on the Closing of COP23

COP 23 was the first COP presided over by a small island – a country that has agreed to welcome displaced people from other islands when they become unliveable due to climate change.   This generous spirit, the belief that we all paddle the one canoe, and a determination to shape an inclusive process, were the hall marks of the Fijian Presidency.

Fiji gave unprecedented leadership on issues of human rights and gender equality which contributed to solid outcomes in the form of the UNFCCC’s first Gender Action Plan and the first Local Communities and Indigenous People’s Platform. COP23 was a technical COP, but Fiji played their part in making it a people-centred COP, as seen through these outcomes and this is their legacy.   They will continue to lead the Talanoa Dialogue next year, carrying their Bula spirit into discussions on ways to increase the urgency and ambition of climate action to meet the 1.5oC goal.

Governments Keep Global Climate Deal on Track Despite US Pullout

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, presiding at the two-week talks in Bonn, said the outcome “underscores the importance of keeping the momentum and of holding the spirit and vision of our Paris Agreement.”
Delegates agreed to launch a process in 2018 to start reviewing existing plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions as part of a long-term effort to ratchet up ambition. It would be called the ”Talanoa Dialogue, after a Fijian word for story-telling and sharing experiences.

Small Steps Forward as UN Climate Talks End in Bonn

Fiji, holding the presidency of this meeting, proposed what’s being called the Talanoa Dialogue. Over the next year, a series of discussions will take place to help countries look at the promises they have made under the Paris pact.

“A key element in Poland is this Talanoa dialogue, to make sure it doesn’t result in just a talk show,” said Yamide Dagnet with the World Resources Institute. “In Poland, ministers will have to look each other in the eye and say they will go home and enhance their actions, so that by 2020 we end up with national plans that will be a much more ambitious set of climate actions.”

‘Political Watershed’ as 19 Countries Pledge to Phase Out Coal

The current alliance includes a few nations like Fiji that do not use coal and does not include any Asian countries where much of the world’s coal is used. Australia, the region’s biggest supplier of coal, has refused to join.

The alliance will work by encouraging new commitments and using financing and shared technology and best practice to encourage others to phase out “unabated coal” – plants where carbon dioxide is not captured and buried below ground. Its national members are Angola, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Fiji, Finland, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Niue, Portugal, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Fiji to Move More Than 40 Villages Inland as Seas Rise

Fiji plans to move more than 40 villages to higher ground to escape coastal floods and is also working on ways to help future migrants from other Pacific island nations as sea levels rise, Fiji’s attorney general said.
Fiji, presiding at negotiations among 200 nations in Germany on ways to strengthen action to curb climate change that is melting ice from the Alps to the Andes, is working to resolve issues such as land rights and citizenship.

“We have had to relocate people to higher ground — we have moved three villages to higher ground and there are another 43 that are earmarked,” Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum told Reuters during the two-week talks that end on Friday.

Our Beautiful Planet: Pacific Paradise at Risk

Fiji’s government is determined to address this vulnerability, and called on world leaders at the COP 23 summit for support. In a report done with the World Bank, the South Pacific nation said it is spending almost 10 percent of its gross domestic product to guard against natural disasters, more than four times the level of five years ago.
“As the President of the COP23 and on behalf of the small island nations, […] Fiji is asking the world for drastic action […]so that climate change does not impose a limit to our development,” Prime Minister Bainimarama said in the report.

COP23: ‘Voyager Society’ Fiji Hopes World Now Responding to its Plight

In his opening remarks to COP23 the Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama said the drua located in the foyer of the Bonn conference centre was also “to remind us of our duty to fill its sail with a collective determination to achieve our mission.”

Pacific islands suffer as decisions on investment to help them adapt to climate disruption take so long, Rev Bhagwan says. “The longer it takes people [in the developed world] to commit and make meaningful actions, the more sea levels continue to rise.”

Gender Plan Seeks to Put Women in Driving Seat of Climate Fight

Achala Abeysinghe, an expert on legal issues at the U.N. climate change talks, advises the chair of the world’s poorest countries at the negotiations. While she has worked with a series of “really good gentlemen” over the years, she thinks it’s high time the group was led by a woman. A new gender action plan, set to be approved at the end of the annual climate conference on Friday in Bonn, could help make that a reality in the coming years.

The plan, which comes five years after a “gender balance” goal was first adopted in Doha to increase women’s participation in the negotiations, notes a “lack of progress” on this aim.

Climate Change Will Determine Humanity’s Destiny, Says Angela Merkel

Merkel, Guterres and Macron were almost upstaged by the first speech of the high-level session, given by 12-year-old Timoci Naulusala from Fiji, without any hint of nerves. Referring to the impact of Cyclone Winston in 2016, he said: “My home, my school, sources of food, money, water, were totally destroyed. My once beautiful village, which I called home, is a barren waste. Climate change is real, not a dream.”

Frank Bainimarama, Fiji’s prime minister and president of the summit, said: “We are not simply negotiating words on a page, but we are representing all our people and the places they call home.”

A Tiny Island Prepares the World for a Climate Refugee Crisis

Fiji, an archipelago of more than 300 islands, is investing $50,000 in developing a legal framework to help climate refugees relocate, according to its Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

“Displacement of people due to climate change is no longer just a Pacific problem,” said Ambassador Nazhat Sameem Khan, chief negotiator for the Presidency of UN climate change talks taking place in Bonn, Germany this week.

Forests are key to resilient growth and climate justice

This week world leaders are meeting for the COP 23 global climate change conference in Bonn. The summit, chaired by Fiji, is the first time a small island state has formally led the process and will be an important moment for international climate action. 

Fiji, like many other small island nations, is vulnerable to sea-level rise and more intense storms. The devastating hurricanes that hit countries and overseas territories in the Caribbean were described by one senior diplomat as “apocalyptic”. We now see the immense human cost, and some island states now argue that without faster climate action they face an existential threat. 

Fijian students speak at COP23

Timoci Naulusala and 10-year-old Shalvi Shakshi are at the COP23 conference with their parents after winning a speech competition in Fiji.

A Unicef Pacific spokesperson said the students had seen first-hand the devastating impacts of climate change in Fiji from Cyclone Winston.

Sheldon Yett said they were now educating their peers on how to prepare for disasters and their stories would move everyone who hears them speak this week in Bonn.

‘InsuResilience to Provide the Poor with More Financial Protection Against Climate Risks

The V20 is a group of 49 of the most vulnerable countries including small islands like Fiji which holds the Presidency of this year’s conference: COP23.

“The Global Partnership is a practical response to the needs of those who suffer loss because of climate change. And I am very proud that it has happened under Fiji’s Presidency of COP. At the same time, it is a means of preparing for a more resilient form of development for those who will have to adapt to the great challenge of climate change,” said the COP23 President and Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama.

COP23: We Are All in the Same Canoe

The Prime Minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, is the official host of this year’s UN Climate Summit, COP 23. But it’s also symbolic – small island nations like Fiji are at greatest risk for actual physical extinction from climate change and associated sea level rise, and Fiji has already had to move 40 communities away from the heat driven tides. Soon some of them will be forced to relocate – climate refugees may well be one of the most dramatic early warning signs if we fail to curb the rising thermometer – and the swollen oceans that thermometer inexorably entrains.

Bainimarama also sounds one of the key themes of this year’s conference – at the host pavilion, Fiji displays an island outrigger and the president’s theme is “We are all in the same canoe.” An astonishing array of societies seem ready to embrace that reality – even the Saudi government pauses in the middle of its rather fraught current crisis to concur, affirming its support for the agreement.

Schwarzenegger: Let’s slap a public health warning on fossil fuels

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama underscored the damage done to health facilities in his small island state from extreme weather, including powerful Cyclone Winston, which caused 44 deaths and wiped out over a third of the nation’s GDP last year.

He stressed the importance of investing in infrastructure to make health systems stronger and more agile in the face of growing disaster threats as global warming brings wilder weather and rising seas.

Although the 2016 cyclone damaged health facilities, Fiji is now building new hospitals and clinics, and reinforcing existing ones, he said. But to do this requires funding, he added, noting that only a tiny fraction of climate finance is allocated for measures to protect health, and small island developing states “will see only a small part of that”.

Paris climate agreement: Some progress but big issues remain unresolved at half-way stage

At the half-way mark in the climate change negotiations here, while some progress has been achieved with respect to framing of guidelines and a rule-book for implementation of the Paris Agreement, a few key issues that have dominated the discussions so far have remained unresolved. Nazhat Shameem Khan of Fiji, the chief negotiator at this conference, noted with satisfaction the wide support that a gender action plan has received. “It is about integrating gender issues in all the work around climate policy. This is really excellent,” she told reporters on Sunday evening.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who is presiding over the conference, claimed good progress on the framing of guidelines for the Paris Agreement. “Overall, clear progress is being made on the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Work has proceeded in a constructive fashion and we are making headway on many key elements of the implementation guidelines. There is of course much work still to be done but I am encouraged by the positive reports so far,” he said on Sunday.

Anti-Trump groups says most of US economy backs Paris climate pact

U.S. cities, states and businesses accounting for more than half the country’s economy remain committed to the 2015 Paris climate accord despite President Donald Trump’s plan to pull out, an anti-Trump alliance said on Saturday.

The “America’s Pledge” report, presented on the sidelines of 200-nation talks on global warming in Bonn, Germany, said non-federal U.S. backers of the Paris pact accounted for $10.1 trillion or 54 percent of U.S. 2016 gross domestic product.

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, presiding at the U.N. talks, praised the anti-Trump alliance. “We are in the same canoe. No one is immune to climate change,” he said in a speech to the meeting.

In ‘Fiji-on-the-Rhine’, islanders stress climate risks

Fiji’s chief negotiator Nazhat Shameem Khan told Reuters others should not underestimate small states.

“If you think you’re too small to make an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito,” she said, attributing the quote to Anita Roddick, the founder of the cosmetics firm The Body Shop.

Many delegates say the Fijian approach makes an often abstract debate about greenhouse gas emissions more real. “It delivers a really stark message,” said Elina Bardram, head of the European Commission delegation.

Khan said Fiji wanted to embed the hard-to-translate Fijian concept of ‘Bula’ into the negotiations. “It’s friendship, it’s inclusiveness, it’s happiness … We’re seeing a lot of the ‘Bula’ spirit here.”


Bonn climate talks flag need for ‘immediate action’

COPs are run by a designated nation – on this occasion Fiji – the first time by a small island nation; one that is at immediate risk from rising sea levels and ferocious storms associated with climate change. Its prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, said at the opening ceremony he hoped the principles of “Talanoa” would be the ingredient for fruitful discussions and a meaningful outcome. Talanoa is a Fijian term for discussions aimed at building consensus and embarking on new projects and has been a catalyst for collective action among its people living in a network of small islands.

It appears as if the unusually small US delegation – full withdrawal is not possible until November 2020 – is deploying the antithesis of Talanoa. The White House confirmed it would promote “efficient” use of coal, nuclear energy and natural gas as an answer to climate change in a presentation to delegates.