The Pacific Gathers to Talanoa for Urgency, Ambition and Resilience

Pacific Leaders and non-governmental representatives gather for Pacific Talanoa Dialogue.

“A boy named Wilmer woke up in the middle of the night and saw water coming into his home. It was up to his knees and people were evacuating very quickly.”

“The boy said he wasn’t scared, but he was shocked. At that moment he asked himself, ‘did this king tide happen because we are bad people, did it happen because it usually happens or did it happen because of human activities?’”

These were the words of the Hon. David Paul, the Marshall Islands’ Environment Minister, who was sharing his country’s story at the Pacific Leaders Talanoa that was held during the second Climate Action Pacific Partnership (CAPP) Conference.

The Pacific Talanoa is the region’s contribution to the Talanoa Dialogue, which is being undertaken by the global community this year to help countries implement and enhance their national climate commitments, known as NDCs.

Speaking at the opening of the Talanoa, Fijian Prime Minister and COP23 President Frank Bainimarama stressed the importance of Pacific islands demonstrating unified and bold leadership on the global stage.

“The opportunity to demonstrate this leadership is upon us – in the form of the Talanoa Dialogue to raise the ambition. It is an opportunity we cannot let go to waste.”

“The ultimate test will be the ambition and effectiveness of our NDCs, which must be made stronger – much stronger – before the Paris Agreement starts in 2020. The Talanoa Dialogue at COP24 in Katowice is a critical moment where political leaders should send a strong signal of their commitment to raising ambition, based on what we learn from each other in this process.”

“This will require political courage and nothing short of visionary leadership. This leadership may be lacking elsewhere, but it must be active and energetic here. As Pacific island leaders, we must now show the way forward,” he said.

The Pacific Talanoa gathered together Pacific island leaders, representatives from regional neighbours – Australia, New Zealand and Canada – Pacific business, Pacific civil society, science and the global investment community.

The stories shared by participants were vivid and compelling, highlighting both the devastating impacts of climate change in the region, as well as some of the innovative responses being undertaken to build greater resilience to them and to further reduce the region’s already low emissions.

Solomon Islands shared a compelling and heartbreaking story about the five islands it has already lost due to rising sea levels, before outlining some of the steps it is taking to address the threat.

Palau shared the story of its transition to renewable energy, including both the challenges it has faced and the innovations it has delivered with the support of global partners.

Australia shared a story of savannah burning practices being teamed up with satellite imagery and the resultant technology being marketed.

And these are just a few examples. Stories were shared about how countries are rolling up their sleeves to build more resilient and net-zero-emission economies by 2050. Others reminded the group that those not doing their part were simply asking others to do more.

Many of the stories highlighted the importance of engaging community and business groups in building local partnerships that strengthen climate action. Many others focused on the importance of the global community fulfilling the investment commitments that have been made, as well as on the issue of loss and damage. And others highlighted both the outcomes and the potential of powerful and meaningful partnerships, such as the High Ambition Coalition, the Ocean Pathway Partnership and the Powering Past Coal Alliance, to give just a few examples.

There was broad consensus among the Pacific storytellers on the fact that while the 1.5 degrees target remains possible, it will require much stronger NDCs, as well as significantly increased efficiency and much larger flows of climate finance. There was also general agreement that the Implementation Guidelines must be completed at COP24.

In this newsletter, we have provided a flavour of some of these stories, but all will soon be available to watch on the COP23 YouTube channel.

The outcomes from the Pacific Talanoa, as well as the broader CAPP Conference, are being summarised and will be formally submitted to help guide the global political leaders’ dialogue at COP24, which will be co-chaired by Fiji and Poland.