By Jean-Baptiste CALO
The President of the Republic of Vanuatu called upon the Leaders of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to change their approach and to collectively be more united and coherent in order to be more effective in rallying support of the international community in getting concrete timeline concerning the implementation of action that would help addressing the impacts of Climate Change issues on the ground.
President Lonsdale made that statement in his second and last statement at the Small Island States Conference (SIDS) which was held on Saturday March 18th, 2017 during third edition of the Crans Montana leaders forum in Dakhla South Morocco, The President of the Republic of Vanuatu
“Our collective task here at this Crans Montana Forum is to encourage international cooperation and overall sustainable growth for SIDS. This is another opportunity to promote best practices and to ensure a permanent dialogue between all those who handle high-level responsibilities. My priority is to enable Vanuatu’s and other SIDS’ effective response to climate change, disaster risk reduction, and – sadly – recovery from major disasters. To that end, we must quickly move towards cooperative approaches that set very concrete timelines and deliverables”, the Vanuatu President stressed.
He went on saying that: “For those of us who live in SIDS, the need for sustainable development is pressing. The world’s success and failures in tackling climate change and other forms of environmental degradation, disease, poverty, and economic volatility – is already having a major impact on families, health, livelihoods, and future prospects of our people. Every dialogue that takes us one step closer to seizing this great opportunity is good, and this dialogue is even better as it promotes partnership and cooperation that scales up and speeds up this global shift”.
President Lonsdale also emphasized that there is an urgent need of a paradigm shift among the Small Island States leaders: “We in SIDS have to let go of the “you go first” mindset that hinders progress and take on the “let me lead” attitude accelerates progress. In Small Island Developing States we have emerged as leaders willing to act first at home and forge partnerships abroad to improve results. The stance of SIDS nations is clear – we are advocates for and role models of the transformative changes towards sustainable development which the world needs to make”.
In his statement at the SIDS conference in Dakhla South Morocco, President Lonsdale also indicated that there are three key messages for SIDS: The First one is that the vulnerability of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) is unacceptably high to he qualify as “ the sea of change of what all those small countries are all experiencing now . Secondly, is that there is a need to develop SIDS specific responses to address key issues in SIDS. We are seeing this in Vanuatu as we develop tailored approaches to adapt to climate change and disasters, to develop renewable energy and to better manage environmental issues. Third, there is a critical need for partnerships but, more than that, partnerships which are sustainable and durable”.
We went on saying that there are many areas in which SIDS are now taking the lead. For example the Martinique Action Plan (MAP) which outlines practical steps for deployment of renewable energy resources and technologies on SIDS, the Samoa Pathway SIDS Action Platform, and most urgent, the upcoming COP23 “SIDS COP” Conference of the Parties under the UN Convention on Climate Change, that will be led by Fiji and other Pacific Island Countries.
President Lonsdale added that at the upcoming COP23, Vanuatu and Fiji will fight to endure that immediate and comprehensive steps are taken to implement the Paris Agreement.
“It is simply not acceptable – purely in moral terms – for the world to allow the small island developing states to sink slowly beneath the waves because of the selfish determination of industrialised nations to protect their own economies. Time is fast running out and I beg you all to act with us as a unified SIDS voice. The Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) – a coalition of 48 countries from Asia, Africa, Caribbean, the Pacific and South America of which Vanuatu is a member– has declared that we “strive to meet 100% domestic renewable energy production as rapidly as possible while working to end energy poverty, protect water and food security, taking into consideration national circumstances”, Fr. Lonsdale added.
He proudly announced at the SIDS conference that Vanuatu is already on a pathway to meet 100% renewable energy by 2030 as specified in the government energy roadmap.
The Head of state also explained that Vanuatu has also just launched its National Sustainable Development plan that is aligned closely to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs), and which includes the nation’s highest development goals across Economic, Social, Environmental and Cultural pillars.
However, President Lonsdale explained that without real action on climate change, Vanuatu will simply be unable to realize any of its development aspirations.
He added that the SIDS require sustainable financing support from developed countries.
“According to the Paris Agreement, we can expect to see a floor of 100 billion USD per year available globally for climate action by 2020. But, as Head of State I require from our development partners more transparency, confidence and predictability on current and expected climate finance flows to rapidly upscale the incredible adaptation and mitigation work we have already started”, he said.
President Lonsdale said that “while much is happening at the global level on climate change action, we are not moving nearly fast enough here in SIDS”.
He emphasized that the first few months of 2017 become first to deviate from the historical average temperature baseline by more than one degree Celsius.
“We are dangerously near the edge of what scientists tell us will be catastrophic warming once we cross the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius”, Fr Lonsdale said.
He pointed out that in 2016, Vanuatu suffered a crippling El Nino drought which plunged the country’s farming communities into a severe food crisis.
And that Vanuatu is still recovering from the devastation caused by Cyclone Pam in March of 2015.
“Climate change is real, and climate change is devastating my nation. As a long-time leader at the national level, I can confirm that the first reaction to a new challenge is most often to ignore it and hope it will go away. There are enough problems. If it won’t go away, the second reaction is to delay. If you can push it into tomorrow, it might yet go away and anyway. But here at this SIDS Conference of the Crans Montana Forum, we need to coordinate SIDS action under the Paris Agreement in a way that immediately turns the many challenges into opportunities”. President Lonsdale said.
“I would also like to raise our unified SIDS voice and to convey a warning to those nations that seek to ignore or delay climate action: with respect, I ask you to stand aside. Your 2°C legal obligation is not going to go away, as it is political judgment, informed by science, about the threshold beyond which the planet will no longer support a quality of life. We will not move forward unless we leave fossil fuels in the ground, where they belong. Although the commitments made since COP21 may still fall short of our 1.5°C desired SIDS response, we at COP23, the SIDS COP, are going to ratchet up, and never rein back, our ambition”, Fr. Lonsdale added.
However, the Vanuatu Head of State said he was humbled by the display of support from the civil society, private sector and development partner agencies towards helping the people in SIDS, and he said he wishes and hopes these partnerships will continue to deepen considerably.
In conclusion of his statement, President Lonsdale said that “with ith this Forum, Vanuatu is proactively preparing itself to own SIDS development action – not merely sitting back as a passive recipient of development assistance. I want our countries to be the driver of change and the leader of the innovations required to address this crisis”.