The United Nations COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, this month, was billed by many as the last chance to save our future. It aimed to ensure that global warming did not exceed 1.5° Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit).
There were notable pledgesParticipating nations can reduce the use of fossil fuels and coal, stop deforestation, and increase conversion to zero-emission modes of transportation.
For many Pacific Islanders, however, the summit failed to take the necessary action to limit global warming. It also denied justice to countries that are most vulnerable to climate-induced poverty.
“Glasgow missed the 1.5 degrees goal. It was the Pacific’s expectation that this would be firmly and irreversibly secured in Glasgow,” Satyendra Prasad, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations in New York told Al Jazeera. “We are now dependent on large emitters to offer deeper emissions cuts. But the second part is even more important. These countries have fewer and fewer years left in which to achieve the cuts before 1.5 degrees is lost permanently.”
Only a reduction in global carbon emissions can reach the 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit threshold). net zero by 2050UN climate scientists said so.
“To anyone in the world who is still listening to the Pacific, let me remind them that 1.5 is the last possible compromise that the Pacific can offer the world,” Prasad added. “Beyond that, you are asking their leaders to sign away the right to exist as countries on our shared planet. To lose 1.5 is not a declaration against Pacific Governments. It is a declaration against our communities and our peoples. It is that simple – period.”
Three months prior to the summit’s opening, leaders from the Pacific Islands attended a preliminary Pacific-UK High Level Climate Dialogue meeting. They demanded that emission reduction targets by nations had to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2025 – in their view, the mid-century deadline is too late – and for developed nations to make good on a 2009 promise to provide $100bn per year in funding for climate mitigation and adaptation in more vulnerable countries.
The summit established a precedent when the parties faced the question of fossil fuelsWith a grouping of 190 nations, regions and organisations, we have agreed to accelerate our transition away from unabated co-generation.
Another pact stated the commitment of more than 100 countries to halt and reverse forest destruction and land degradationBy 2030. Ford, General Motors Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, General Motors and Jaguar pledged to make zero-emission vehicles easier and more affordable for all. Road transport is responsible 10 percent of all greenhouse gases emissions. Countries like New Zealand and the United Kingdom, Japan, United States, United Kingdom and Denmark have also pledged to reduce aviation emissions.
“We need to thank the large emitters especially for undertaking significant commitments. The combined actions from all sectors, including transport, energy, agriculture, and shipping, is significant. They will shape and drive industry and individuals to do more…. Climate action is good business. I think Glasgow demonstrated that forcefully,” Prasad said.
Ashwini Prabha Leopold, the Board Chair of Pacific Islands Climate Action Network, told Al Jazeera, however, that the agreement to reduce coal use is not enough.
“After 30 years, governments finally had the guts to talk openly about the problem of fossil fuel dependence at COP26, but failed to encode a bold solution in their final outcomes. Future COPS will have to build on the small steps taken in the Glasgow agreements and go beyond tepid language that ultimately serves fossil fuel interests,” Prabha-Leopold said.
Scientists predict that the collective pledges made at Glasgow would lead to a global temperature increase of 2.4 degrees Celsius (4.3 degree Fahrenheit).
Islanders believe that this would be disastrous for countries like Papua New Guinea.
“We would continue to experience warmer than normal air temperatures as we are seeing at this time and the sea levels are increasing. Our economy, including the fishing industry, may be at risk. Coral bleaching will continue to rise and PNG will see an increase in flooding due to extreme weather,” Kisolel Posanau, Climate Research Officer at PNG’s National Weather Service in Port Moresby, told Al Jazeera.
Many of the anger and frustration felt by Pacific Islanders stems from their inequity. Although the Pacific Islands region has contributed 0.03 percent to global greenhouse gases emissions, they are still confronted by rising sea levels and increasing sea surges. King tides are a constant threat. Cyclones also cause destruction.
More than half of the 12 million inhabitants of the Pacific Islands live less than a kilometre (.6 mi) from the sea. Extreme climate and weather are affecting people’s access to food and freshwater. Ocean acidification is expected to impact fisheries, an important industry that islanders rely on for their food, income, as well as national exports.
“PNG’s weather and climate have changed over the past ten, even five years,” Posanau said. “I work with climate data every day and see this trend. Our wet season and dry season don’t fall on the normal transition months any more, and there have also been high cases of dengue fever, malaria, viral infections and even heat rash.”
The latest report issued this year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that “it is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land” and is affecting the weather extremes being experienced in every part of the world.
Many Pacific Island nations argue that the longstanding climate finance pledge of $100bn per annum is, therefore, crucial for them to build resilience.
“The basic fact is that the rich world failed to secure $100bn for 2020. We have welcomed the commitment to repackage the commitment over the next five years with $100bn to be delivered by 2023…. Fiji has proposed with considerable support that the post-2025 package should have $750bn as a floor, and that small states on the front lines should have a dedicated financing window of 10 percent of that. Fiji has also said that the largest proportion of climate financing for small states on front lines should be in the form of grants, not loans,” Fiji’s Prasad said.
Many people in the region also demand finance to cover climate-related loss or damage.
“Loss and damage are life and death in the Pacific region and the political will of the global leaders is required to support Pacific Island countries because they are already losing everything because of the devastating impacts of climate change. The failure of the global leaders to address this key area is very disappointing and unsatisfactory,” Tanya Afu, a climate activist in the Solomon Islands, told Al Jazeera.
Reflecting on the outcomes in Glasgow, Prasad said: “Did the world secure a pathway to the end of the age of fossil fuels? No. Is the world able to take the necessary climate action on a large scale? No…. There is hope, however, stretched that the world can secure 1.5 degrees by the time its leaders meet in Egypt.”
The next climate summit will take place in the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh in a year’s time.