What’s the significance of this being a “Pacific COP”?

Despite being held in gloomy, chilly Bonn, Germany, COP23 has had a warm, tropical feel to it. Each year, the COP is held in different parts of the world as the UN aims to be geographically fair. This year, the conference was meant to be presided over an Asia Pacific country with the ultimate decision coming down to Fiji. Due to the logistical issues a COP would pose, the decision was made to host it at the headquarters of the UNFCCC – Bonn, Germany – while still being presided over by Fiji.

Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama of Fiji delivers his welcoming address as the incoming President for COP23

Since the COP opening plenary, phrases such as bula vinaka and talanoa mada have made their way into discussions and meetings. The former meaning a warm hello, and the latter describing inclusive, participatory and transparent discussions. The Fijian presidency has worked hard and has done a good job so far to bring their spirit to these crucial climate talks. The renaming of the Facilitative Dialogue to Talanoa Dialogue has been welcomed by all Parties, many of whom have reiterated the importance of inclusivity, participation and transparency in the dialogue, which are all values that will be key to productive talks in the next year toward enhancing ambition and NDCs by 2020. Yesterday we saw an initiative by the Presidency from Fiji and the UNFCCC Secretariat which saw an Open Dialogue between CSOs and the Parties take place for the first time at a COP. The session was a good start and we look forward to seeing more transparent, facilitative, open discussions.

Also the “Ambition COP”

Despite many people thinking of this COP as a “middle-COP”, where no major event or decision is made, COP23 is incredibly important for paving the way forward with increased ambitions by countries in the coming years. It is a fact that the action that has been committed right now via each country’s Nationally Determined Contributions are simply not enough to achieve the temperature goal of either 1.5°C or 2°C as stated in Article 2 of the Paris Agreement. With the current NDCs that were submitted by countries, we are on course for 3°C warming by the year 2100. There is no doubt that more needs to be done and it’s a conversation that many countries are having here at COP23.

As with any negotiations, especially COP negotiations, these conversations are not without complexities. Although many countries agree that ambitions need to be ramped up for both pre-2020 period, as well as in relation to NDCs for post-2020 period, the issue of equity within the ratcheting mechanism is a huge discussion. While there are many mentions of equity and Common, But Differentiated Responsibilities, it is still unclear how the principle is to be implemented into the ambition ratcheting of the Global Stocktake.

Parties and CSOs sit in a roundtable format during the first ever Open Dialogue at a COP, hosted by the COP Presidency and UNFCCC Secretariat.

If the past few days at COP23 are any indication, we are in for an extremely interesting COP, a COP that is hopefully forward-looking, and a COP that should show the world that the Paris Agreement is alive and well, and is performing like how it was designed. I think the negotiator from one of the small island states in the Pacific has most appropriately summed it up. Across a couple meetings, he has made emotional interventions, bordering on saying that the drive for increased ambition, or lack thereof, is a life or death decision that will affect the lives of many Pacific Islanders. It’s time the Parties stand in solidarity with the people of the nations that will suffer the worst and the soonest. This is, after all, the “Pacific COP”. Let’s do it some justice.

Written by Mike Campton
Edited by Emily & Adrian