President Obama hears concerns of Pacific and Caribbean leaders

President Anote Tong of Kiribati and a number of leaders from the Pacific and Caribbean have met with United States President Barack Obama at the margins of COP21 in Paris.

The meeting is an attempt by both Parties to explore options on key negotiating positions of small and vulnerable nations at the frontline of climate change.

The meeting on the margins of the COP21 conference in Le Bourget was ‘useful’ according to President Tong.

The three Pacific Leaders invited to the talk, Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Papua New Guinea – put to President Obama the need for ‘loss and damage’ and the global temperature rise to below 1.5 degrees’ in the proposed Paris Agreement.

Speaking at a side event organised by the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN) and the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF), President Tong said they emphasised that Article 5 Option 1 on Loss and Damage will not be compromised.

“They (the US) assured us of some commitments but the details needs to be worked out,” said President Tong.

Tuvalu’s Prime Minister, Enele Sopoaga in support of on-going exploratory meetings with the US, said ‘some understandings have been reached but that will not mean a trade-off of 1.5 global goal for loss and damage.’

“We will need to work out these details with the US negotiators in the coming days,” explained Prime Minister Sopoaga.

The Tuvaluan leader was not in the meeting with President Obama but has been in close contact with senior US Government officials including Secretary of States, John Kerry on the negotiating positions of Tuvalu and other Pacific Small Island Developing States.

In his statement at the side event, the Tuvaluan leader, who is a former diplomat and negotiator for the small island nation on climate change, said, ‘The current 2 degrees target is to save the economies of rich nations and is less ambitious. The Pacific cannot accept that.’

“Even 3 degrees is a blow-up and that will sink my island. 

“Can we allow COP21 to do that? We will not allow them to trade with our loss and damage and 1.5 degree goal,” said PM Sopoaga.

He urged other Pacific Leaders here in Paris ‘not to sing out of tune, but sing the same song in the coming days.’

“We have been singing the same song from Rio to Kyoto to Paris. We need to take the song out of this room and chorus with others in the coming two weeks to hammer out a legally binding & ambitious climate deal.”

There is already some discussion on the possibility of relegating Loss & Damage to decisions from Paris instead of the main Agreement because of the Warsaw Implementation Mechanism (WIM. WIM is to be reviewed at COP22 next year.

“Why not make WIM permanent in the Paris Agreement,” asked the Prime Minister of Tuvalu.

Oxfam and Christian Aid, two prominent civil society groups following the negotiations say there is a real possibility that the US and rich nations will work at pushing Loss & Damage to decisions of the COP only.

“This is an uphill battle for small island nations. It is a David vs Goliath fight between small island nations and the might of the US and other rich nations,” said Mohamed Adow of Christian Aid.

Currently, there are two options on Loss & Damage chapter – for an international compensation mechanism (option 1) and the removal of Loss & Damage from the text (option 2). Option 2 is being supported by the US and other developed countries.

“The question is will the US and rich nations budge from their position during the negotiations,” said Tim Gore of Oxfam International.

Negotiations on the adaptation and Loss & Damage which forms part of the text of the Ad Hoc Committee of on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP) is now underway.

President of COP21, the Foreign Affairs Minister of France, Laurent Fabius has asked negotiators from all Parties to ensure the ADP text is ready by next Wednesday 09 December before it’s endorsed and presented to the Conference of Parties on Friday