Govt. delegates optimistic about C.O.P.24 outcomes

Facing developed countries and asserting the needs of small island developing states at the 24th Conference of the Parties (C.O.P.24) in Poland last month was an emotional experience for government delegates.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment’s assistant chief executive (global environment facility) Anne Rasmussen, and chief executive officer Ulu Bismark Crawley attended the C.O.P.24 for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December.

They, along with delegates from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Prime Minister and Cabinet and Women, Community and Social Development represented not only Samoa, but member states of the Alliance of Small Island States — in negotiations with other countries.

A month on from the end of C.O.P.24, Ms Rasmussen and Ulu said while it was a long and emotional experience, they are encouraged by the international commitment to address climate change.

“I personally felt the strong collective interest in addressing climate change,” Ulu said.

“We knew there could be issues but each country does know it is important. To what extent varies, and the big economies do have a big alliance.”

C.O.P.24, held three years after the ratification of the Paris Agreement, was intended to result in a “rulebook” for the agreement — in terms of how countries would implement it and be held accountable to each other.

The end result was the Katowice Climate Package, which included among many others, guidelines on mitigation and reporting of mitigation efforts, adaptation communication, climate finances, technology, and procedures for transparency on action and support.

One result in the package is that countries will follow common time frames on their reporting of mitigation efforts of “common but differentiated responsibilities.”

Ulu said this was a step, which showed how seriously every country — no matter what size — is taking the matter of cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions to slow the earth’s rise to 1.5 degrees of warming.

“We have to all do our part, but for our part we are focused on adaptation.” 

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“What has been realised is the importance of cutting back emissions. If this isn’t done, we cannot overcome the threat of 1.5 degrees,” said Ulu.

The pair reported that the method of negotiation with AOSIS worked particularly well. Member states took responsibility for different thematic areas of negotiation on behalf of the other island states, and they met each day to report back to each other.

“Parties negotiated as blocs,” Ulu explained, 

“It gives more weight when [we are] grouped together.” 

“We have a process that reflects our capacity to report on our obligations, because of our size, our economy, our capacity.”

Ulu said the outcomes of C.O.P.24 are positive and will set Samoa and others up to continue working against the onslaught of climate change impacts. For Samoa, the focus is on adapting to those impacts.

As a small country contributing less than 0.0006 per cent of global emissions (in 2004), Samoa’s National Determined Contributions are nonetheless ambitious. Reaching the goal of 100 per cent renewable energy, powering the islands in six years, will greatly reduce emissions.

On the ground, Samoa will continue to invest in and implement the Community Integrated Management Plans, as well as review them to incorporate outcomes from C.O.P.24.

The continuation of the Kyoto Protocol’s Adaptation Fund to the Paris Agreement is positive, and provides a level of financing security that Samoa will benefit from, Ulu added.

“With donor support, the Government can review those C.I.M. plans in consultation with the communities and conduct detailed assessments. 

Ulu said he ensures works project documents are translated into Samoan where possible, to include as many people as possible. With over 80 per cent of the land being owned by the community, this is essential, even if some of the technical language may be difficult.

“The basis of interventions is often about revegetation, replanting, and it’s about engaging the community as much as possible,” he said.

“Samoan leaders endorsed this project, because the C.I.M. plans cover a broad range of areas, like works projects for roads, water. 

“Translation of these technical decisions and high level plans, including the Conventions is very crucial when consulting communities,” he added.

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