Poised, sincere and passionate, 12-year-old Fijian Timoci Naulusala, spoke before the assembled dignitaries at the COP23 and gave his personal account of the ravages of climate change. “My home, my school, sources of food, money, water, were totally destroyed. My once beautiful village, which I called home, is a barren waste.”
In February 2016, Cyclone Winston tore across the island nation of Fiji leaving tens of thousands homeless. Small island nations like Fiji in the South Pacific are among the places most at risk from sea-level rise and extreme storms caused by climate change.
The UNFCCC’s 23rd Conference of the Parties on climate change was hosted by Fiji but held in Bonn, Germany, on November 6-17. Its task: to bring forth concrete measures following on the landmark Paris Agreement at the COP21 in 2015.
Of the 196 participating nations (the “Parties”), just one has announced its intention to pull out of the agreement: the USA, by decision of its impulsive President Donald Trump. (The withdrawal will not take effect until 2020). But Christiana Figueres, the UN’s chief climate negotiator, said the US withdrawal “provoked an unparalleled wave of support for the treaty.” American cities and states are stepping in to fill the gap. Bill Peduto, Mayor of Pittsburgh, declared, “American cities are committed to being able to not only meet the Paris Agreement, but to exceed it”.
The sole US event brought an executive from Peabody, the US coal company with a long history of funding climate denial, to argue for “clean coal”. A protest song and walkout from most of the audience followed and for the rest of the summit, the US delegation was irrelevant.
Coal-phase out has become a significant focal point for climate campaigners. One major event at the COP23 was the launch of the “Powering Past Coal Alliance”, led by the UK and Canada and including Denmark, Finland, Italy, New Zealand, Ethiopia, Mexico and the Marshall Islands, and the US states of Washington and Oregon.
French President Emmanuel Macron promised to replace the $2 million annual donation withdrawn by the US from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). “I propose that the EU replaces the USA, and France will meet that challenge,” he announced, to thunderous applause.
The former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged $50m to expand his anti-coal US campaign into Europe.
Saving Our Planet’s president Stephan Savarese gave a presentation about the health risks of coal power plants. Among other pollutants, coal power plants actually produce more radioactivity than nuclear plants! Yet, “Coal has been left unchecked while nuclear power was executed without a fair trial.” Worldwide, 50 new coal power plants are planned for the ten years. Stephan urges everyone to sign our petition to Exit Coal Now.
Dr James Hansen, climate scientist and activist, sees little progress since the Paris Agreement: CO2 and methane in the atmosphere have actually been increasing. “There will be no reduction in fossil fuel use as long as fossil fuels are the cheapest energy. We have to add a carbon fee or tax on all fossil fuels,” he said in an interview.
Was COP23 helpful?
On balance, yes. Two major goals – advancing work on the Paris Agreement implementation guidelines, and agreeing on the design of the Talanoa Dialogue, named after a Pacific storytelling tradition that fosters empathy and trust – were met.
Action commitments were highlighted in the areas of financing climate action, investing in climate action, coordinating climate action, corporate emission cuts and government ratification.
COP23 was important in getting the technical groundwork laid for the rule book for the Paris Agreement, and ensuring that pre-2020 ambition is not forgotten.
COP23 also focused on climate change adaptation. Fiji’s government and those of other countries that are under particular threat from climate change delivered their messages loud and clear: climate change hits poor people especially hard.
Finance will continue to be a major factor in the success of the Paris Agreement. The Parties are committed to contribute US$100bn annually by 2020 towards financing climate action, mostly in less developed countries; however, current commitments are well short of that target.
COP24 will take place from 3-14 December 2018, in Katowice, Poland. The Paris rulebook has to be finalised and poorer and vulnerable nations will demand much more action and funding from the rich countries. Further gatherings in Paris in December and California next year will also help prepare the stage for the 2018 UN climate summit. Let’s hope the climate conference will help Poland to think seriously about carbon-free energies…
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Timoci Naulusala opens COP23 High Level Segment
Cyclone Winston: tens of thousands homeless in Fiji a week after storm
The COP23 climate change summit in Bonn and why it matters
Cop23 UN climate talks: Everything you need to know
Climate summit goes slow and steady but King Coal looms
POWERING PAST COAL ALLIANCE: DECLARATION
Macron: France will replace US funding for UN climate science
Bloomberg pledges $50m to help Europe bin coal
COP23 – Bonn – Sauvons Le Climat – Save Our Planet – Stephan Savarese – 2017-11-12
Exit Coal Now !
Dr James Hansen at #COP23 interview
COP23: The wrap-up and the way forward
KfW experts on the COP23 results