Video Statement at the Virtual Meeting during New York Climate Week

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

23 September 2020 
New York, USA

Ladies and gentlemen,

I thank Climate Analytics for the opportunity to share a few thoughts with you on the occasion of  this timely and important event.

I believe, we all agree that long-term emission reductions require political will over the long haul, buy- in by all stakeholders, commitment of financial resources and advance planning.

This is why I argue that the updated NDCs are THE vehicle for providing a roadmap towards bringing this long-term objective from mere words to result.

The NDCs now have to be finalized in the midst of an ever more complex setting.

The COVID-19 pandemic has and continues to trigger  massive disruptions across the globe for everyone and truly everywhere.

The  toll is especially heavy for the SIDS, LDCs and LLDCs.

Trade, tourism and remittances have plummeted  if not come to standstills.

Job losses and the accelerated decline in government revenues  worsen an already acute debt situation we saw coming prior to the pandemic.

Vulnerability is experienced at several levels.

This means governments, people are confronted with the storm of a combined health, economic and climate crisis.

The onset of the hurricane season, for example, has already triggered a category five tropical cyclone, Cyclone Harold. It wreaked havoc in Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

An immediate result is that already scarce domestic resources are diverted from SDG implementation towards emergency plans to address health and humanitarian needs.

Short- term now dominates action yet  we cannot allow the pandemic to divert our efforts from climate action.

Admittedly it is a challenge, but it is now that we must reconcile short- term needs with long- term requirements to make the future sustainable and inclusive for all.

Despite all the challenges they face,  these countries have historically made among the smallest of historical contributions to greenhouse gas emissions.

As an islander myself, I am proud to see how 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 they have continued to follow-up on them.

The LDCs set out a vision to reach net zero GHG emissions by 2050 in the context of resources being available to do so.

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.

The Pacific NDC Hub launched in 2017 is contributing to help PSIDS on their low carbon pathways by their high ambition NDCs and leveraging finance for their implementation.

However, the necessary long-term financing must NOW be put in place.

Mobilizing resources on the scale needed will be a challenge but one we must live up to.

As revenues continue to collapse while debt servicing costs go on, governments are forced to make tough choices between providing services to citizens or paying creditors.

So far, some countries have succeeded in suspending temporarily bilateral debt servicing costs.

But that just means postponing a looming problem. During this moratorium, interest payments continue to accrue, and the challenge only increases.

This is mere bandaids.

Solutions will require political will from all bilateral and multilateral development partners.

For example, debt relief or expanding Special Drawing Rights; and “debt for climate action swaps” could support a green recovery while lowering crippling debt burdens.

None of us at this time last year saw COVID-19 coming.

This pandemic’s  impact on vulnerable countries’ debt challenge is unprecedented in scale and urgency and this must be reflected in the solutions now urgently to be found.

As we battle the spread of the virus, countries across the world are focusing on recovery efforts.

As COVID 19 knows no borders, no gender, no race, no religion , so it goes for the impact of climate change.

We are in this together and this implies that recovery efforts and packages must include the most vulnerable.

This is one more important wake-up call for all of us to rethink our common future.

It is now that we must make the long-term political commitments for a low-carbon future and put in place the corresponding mitigation plans and policies.

It is now that we need to put in place the instruments to secure the required long-term financial allocations. 

I thank you.