World

Governments ‘not ready’ for December climate change summit, says Fiji PM Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama at Bangkok talks

by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Patpicha Tanakasempipat

Reuters

Governments are unprepared for a crucial climate change meeting in Poland later this year aimed at ensuring the full implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement, Fiji Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama said this week at climate talks in Bangkok.

The talks in the Thai capital come ahead of a summit in Katowice, Poland, in December, when government ministers will meet to agree rules for implementation of the 2015 Paris climate accord.

“In three months’ time we will be in Katowice, and frankly, we are not ready,” said Bainimarama, who is also president of the 23rd annual Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, or COP23.

“I don’t think that statement should surprise anyone in this room,” he said at the opening of the talks, adding that without guidelines countries “risk chaos at Katowice and the possibility of yet another delay in the urgent work of combating climate change.”

Alarm was also raised by experts at the talks over whether developed countries are taking seriously their commitment to generate $100 billion in climate finance, which could possibly jeopardise the Paris accord.

The promise to raise $100 billion a year by 2020 in climate finance, from both public and private sources to help developing countries tackle global warming, is included on the agenda for the weeklong talks, by the end of which senior U.N. officials hope a draft text for negotiations on the rule book will have emerged.

But discussion on the funding is being “blocked across the board” at the meeting by a group of rich nations led by the United States, said Harjeet Singh, a global climate lead at non-profit ActionAid.

“If they don’t commit to real finance, it’s all going to fall apart. Developing countries will not be able to implement their targets, which they have put forward in anticipation of the money,” cautioned Singh.

“There is a big fear that the $100 billion target will not be met.”

The Paris accord, adopted by almost 200 nations in 2015, set a target of limiting warming to “well below” a rise of 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times and a sweeping goal of ending the fossil fuel era this century, but the text was vague on details.

Last weekend, before the opening of the Bangkok talks, Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said governments are not on track to meet the 2 C goal. Espinosa is among those hoping a draft text for negotiation on the “rule book’ of the 2015 agreement will emerge at the end of this week’s talks.

Meena Raman, a climate change programme coordinator at Malaysia-based Third World Network, said that the United States, which pulled out of the Paris Agreement in 2017 under President Donald Trump, is watering down negotiation efforts and allowing other rich countries to show the same lukewarm commitment.

Trump has previously described climate change as a hoax, and withdrew from the Paris accord saying it favored other countries and was disadvantageous to the U.S.

“Other rich countries are hiding behind the U.S., singing the same tune. It’s very sad,” said Raman. “The commitment on finance is an absolute must for Poland to be a success.”

After failing to make enough progress in Bonn in May, the Bangkok summit is seen as a last shot before Katowice.

“This is not just an additional session. It is an urgent session,” Bainimarama stressed in his statement.

“Around our world the effects of climate change are becoming more evident and more severe. No country or region is spared and the effects in one region are felt in others,” he added, urging delegates to come up with clear guidelines.

“Would any of us like to return to our people and tell them that we had the chance to do something truly great and truly necessary for the world we will pass to our children, but that we lacked the will to get it done?”