Monday, 26 October 2009 9:24 AM

Climate Change Negotiations, Slow Steps Forward?

Press Release - 22 October 2009 - Pacific islands countries are still waiting for "numbers on the table" from the developed countries outlining how much they plan to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

The Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS) stands by a limit of 1.5 degree Celsius temperature warming for which they have the support of close to 100 United Nations Member countries.

There is currently 0.8 degrees Celsius in temperature warming which is impacting upon the Pacific islands countries with coastal erosion, a threat to food crops, coral bleaching, flooding and more intense cyclones and hurricanes.

The Pacific Islands needs well below 1.5 to stay alive.

During the most recent of international climate change negotiations in Bangkok in October, the Pacific islands countries expressed frustration at the slow pace of progress.

The session was intended to narrow the large negotiating documents and clarify different country perspectives. The document, which began with over 200 pages, is now a more manageable text that negotiaters can work on however with only one more negotiating session before the UN Climate Change Conference in December this progress could be coming too late.

It's very late in the process," stated Espen Ronneberg the Climate Change Adviser for the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

"When we were negotiating the Kyoto Protocol we were at this point in time about six months ahead, so there is a very real danger that negotiation time will not be sufficient and a number of countries are very concerned that we're too far behind on the negotiation curve to be able to actually reach a meaningful agreement in Copenhagen."

A special United Nations General Assembly was called in September to help speed progress with an international climate change deal by December the impact of this is still to be felt at the negotiating table.

"We had some very positive signals given at the General Assembly by leaders from developing countries that are major emitters. But when it came to the actual negotiations in Bangkok, these positions were not presented in the same manner. A lot of developing countries were holding back on formalising their commitments."

Despite the challenges during the Bangkok climate change talks, there were several major breakthroughs for the Pacific region.

A number of bilateral discussions were held between AOSIS and countries that have similar concerns and vulnerabilities. The entire group of Least Developed Countries, a negotiating block at the international climate change level, has come on board with the AOSIS proposal. The majority of the African Group, another negotiating block, has also agreed with AOSIS as well as the ASEAN countries who have agreed verbally but are still to make a formal acceptance of the AOSIS proposal.

"This is excellent. We're hoping to have more countries on board with the AOSIS call to limit temperature and atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, as we'll be in a better position when we get to the final days at the Climate change meeting in Copenhagen."

The Bangkok Climate Change talks also saw agreements towards the Pacific proposals on adaptation to climate change. General agreement was reached on capacity building there was also a movement towards general agreement on adaptation and the issue of financing for adaptation. The particulars for the specifics of technical support requested by the Pacific islands countries are also close to agreement.

"But through all this, we still don't have the mitigation commitment numbers from all the developed countries," said Espen Ronneberg.

"If we don't have strong mitigation action, then everything we do on adaptation is a moot point."

For more details please contact SPREP's Climate Change Adviser Espen Ronneberg E: eronneberg@sprep.org T: (685) 21929 F: (685) 20231 W: www.sprep.org

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