UN Climate Change News, 15 November 2017 - At the UN climate change conference in Bonn (COP23, to 17 November), COP23 President and Prime Minister of Fiji Frank Bainimarama called on governments to make swift progress on taking forward climate action and finalizing the rulebook of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Ministers from around the world and around 25 Heads of State and Government arrived in Bonn today for the high-level segment of the UN climate conference, which ends Friday.
Alluding to the Fijian sailing canoe, or “drua” exhibited at the Bonn climate conference venue, Frank Bainimarama said: “We are all bound by our common interest in reducing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. This is humanity’s mission. It’s symbolic of the journey we must all make together. With just a couple of days to go, let’s stay the course. Let’s reach our destination”.
This is the first time that a small island developing state is presiding over a UN climate change conference. Also from Fiji was 12-year-old Timoci Naulusala, who was invited to Bonn as part of a Climate Week speech competition for children.
At the opening, he made a touching and passionate plea for climate action. "The sea is swallowing villages, eating away at shorelines, withering crops. Relocation of people...cries over lost loved ones, dying of hunger and thirst. Its catastrophic. It’s sad…but its real.
"You may think it will only affect small nations...you are wrong.”
The main part of the opening of the high-level segment in Bonn was concluded by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Germany has provided generous financial and logistical support for COP23, and it is also the host of the secretariat of UN Climate Change.
“The Paris Agreement will only have been a real breakthrough if the agreement is followed up with real action. Constructive, multilateral work under the umbrella of the UN the only way forward,” the German President said.
Germany’s special role was also highlighted by the presence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the event, who announced that Germany would double the amount of climate finance it is providing to developing countries by 2020.
Call to Action from UN Chief Guterres
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres commended Fiji for assuming the Presidency role – a crucial task and highly symbolic given the risks all island states face from climate change. He said that when he last month visited islands facing the impacts of a warming world - Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica – he was shocked by the hurricane damage he saw.
“The voice of small island states that are on the front lines of climate change must be voice of us all,” he said.
“Floods, fires, extreme storms and drought are growing in intensity and frequency. Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are higher than they have been for 800,000 years.
Climate change is the defining threat of our time. Our duty - to each other and to future generations - is to raise ambition,” he added.
The UN chief called for more ambition in five specific action areas: Emissions, adaptation to the inevitable impacts of climate change, finance, partnerships and leadership.
With the latest UN Environment Programme Emissions Gap Report showing that current pledges will only deliver a third of what is needed to stay in the safety zones of the Paris Agreement, and scientists forecasting that 2017 will see the first increase in CO2 emissions in three years, there is no time for complacency.
Antonio Guterres pointed out the good news in the world of climate action. For example, carbon markets are growing and merging and the green bond market is expanding, with this year’s issuance of green bonds already exceeding last year’s record.
He also welcomed the new initiative, led by Germany, to provide insurance against extreme weather events for 400 million more vulnerable people by 2020 announced yesterday in Bonn, and the Global Climate Action Agenda which was accelerated at COP23, involving regions, cities, business, investors and civil society.
All of this is encouraging for governments who are in process of implementing the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
In Bonn, the President of the UN General Assembly Miroslav Lajčák spoke of the massive interest on the part almost all governments in driving forward climate action.
He pointed out that the UN General Assembly in New York this year saw the highest number of references to climate change on record - 84% of UN member states highlighted it as a priority, and many of them made calls of support for the Paris Agreement.
See all the speeches given by national representative at COP23 here.