Opening Remarks on the Climate Talk and Net Zero 2050: New Zealand and Pacific Island Countries

Statement by Ms. Fekitamoeloa Katoa‘Utoikamanu, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States

4 August 2020 
New York, USA

Ladies and gentlemen,

A big thank you , Malo Aupito!

to New Zealand’s Embassy to the Republic of Korea.

A big thank you to the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI),

Our co-organizers.

I am honored by your  invitation to address this important meeting.

Please allow me to first  pay tribute to you , Your Excellency,  Ban Ki-moon.

Throughout your distinguished career and especially during your two consecutive terms as Secretary-General of the United Nations, you drove, you unwaveringly committed to combatting climate change and you continue to do so !

Thank you for inspiring us all.

Climate change knows no borders. Climate change concerns all women, girls, men and boys of our shared planet.

By now though, climate change has taken on a truly existential meaning for the peoples of the Pacific. In Shakespeare’s words it is about «  TO BE OR NOT TO BE « .

Many before me already alerted to this. 

The SIDS, the least developed countries and the landlocked developing countries with a population of over one billion people, human lives ! , are among the most vulnerable nations.

They all have in common to be on the frontline of climate change.

Adapting in pro-active ways to the foreseeable adverse impacts of climate change is not a luxury for them, it is a necessity to survive.

A key driver to be able to achieve that lies in access to affordable and reliable energy. They lack that access. This means you can barely power rural health clinics, forget about telemedicine anyway or telework. This means you remain stuck in sub-optimal production processes and you can not compete in regional or global markets.

Many of the countries, especially the small islands and landlocked countries, are far away from  markets, they remain highly dependent on fossil-fuel imports, and suffer  from the resulting high energy access costs.

With rapidly advancing technology and thus also more competitive pricing, the move towards renewable energy and low-carbon development has become an economically viable option. This is particularly so given the high renewable energy potential of the countries.

The challenges countries face are considerable and let us not forget that, historically, their contributions to greenhouse gas concentrations has been  very low on a per capita basis.

All of us should be very encouraged  that both AOSIS and the LDCs have taken exemplary steps in terms of ambition in mitigation. Both groups made important announcements at the Climate Action Summit last September in New York, and continue to follow-up on them.

All SIDS have committed to strategies consistent with the 1.5 Degree target, and several have committed to 100% renewable energy by 2030 – including through initiatives like SIDS Dock and the SIDS Lighthouse Initiative.

I take it upon myself and OHRLLS – and I call upon all to join - to urgently amplify their voice so it is heard loud and clear by the major greenhouse gas emitters, to whom we appeal to play their part on the global stage.

Since , further challenges have arisen with the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have massive disruptions everywhere. But the toll is especially heavy for the SIDS, LDCs and LLDCs.

They faced complex vulnerability challenges prior to the pandemic but now they face a multiple of challenges amounting to an almost perfect storm.

The impérative of short-term health and basic survival responses means that already scarce domestic resources have to be diverted from national SDG implementation towards emergency plans. 

Through all this, the global climate crisis continues to unfold.

The onset of the hurricane season is a stark reminder of this.

While, allow me to say, mission control is all focused on pandemic management,  capacity to respond to other unfolding disasters  is almost depleted.

Take as evidence the Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Harold which wreaked havoc in Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

I am sure we all agree that constant , short-term re-active responses can not be the answer because this simply is not sustainable.

The challenge before us is to stay the course and maintain traction for ambitious climate action.

We must reverse the current downward spiral.

This is why I wish to thank the AOSIS Chair for convening the Placenia Ambition Forum in April of this year.At the Forum, important steps were taken to mobilize major actors in the climate change negotiations, and for increasing ambition and safeguarding of the Paris Agreement.

In these efforts, countries have to be in the driver’s seat. I wish to mention the countries that have recently submitted their updated national plans, which include four SIDS and three LLDCs, one of which is also an LDC, as well as New Zealand.

It is a beginning and I look forward to the work of the new independent Climate Change Commission. 

The Pacific NDC Hub, which was launched in 2017, already supports pacific island nations on their low carbon pathways.

As a side remark, I believe the COVID pandemic shows us some keys for solutions like much more replacing travel with virtual meetings, consuming locally including movements like farm-to-table,  valuing the quality of the natural environment ! These are all steps each one of us can take to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Each one of us has a role to play.

Let us not just be victims but let us be actors in the change we want.

Slowly indeed, but surely , countries across the world are focusing on recovery efforts.

This is now our opportunity  to change course by greening our recovery measures.

This is our moment for SOLIDARITY.

As I said at the beginning, climate change knows no boundaries and a virus also does not and nor should basic human rights.

It is a basic human right to have access to a healthy environment as expressed in the Stockholm declaration.

At the outset, very strong local, national, regional and global political wills have to come together to decide that our «  new normal «  will be built on an inclusive and sustainable development model.

All stimulus spending should drive  a green impact. This would go a long way toward making the low-carbon transition reality rather than keep talking about it.

The evidence is there and shows that such investments can generate a strong economic recovery, create decent jobs and bring us closer to a 1.5-degree world.

We CAN do it, but now we MUST do it !

Let us unite, have a common voice, let us move to ACTION with strong champions who will lead by example.

I thank you.