Pacific COP26 Message: Canoe is Sinking – get Bucket and Start Bailing

Pacific Island leaders attending the two week COP26 summit in Glasgow Scotland are urging world leaders to take action against climate change that continues to impact Small Island Developing States in the Pacific, despite SIDS being some of the lowest fossil fuel users and carbon emitters in the world.

Only four Pacific leaders from Pacific Island nations have been able to attend COP 26; from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu, and Palau. Hundreds of leaders and heads of state have made speeches and statements committing to their plans and goals to tackle climate change.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama gave a clear and simple message at the leaders’ event on Action and Solidarity. He told leaders that all countries are in the same canoe when it comes to climate change. He warned the global canoe is heading for storms and will sink while rising sea waters pour aboard through gaps in ambition, climate finance, and emissions reduction commitments.

“This COP26 is where we will decide if we will choose to stay with 1.5, or lose it forever. It is where we decide whether we are with the young and future children of the world of today or we are against them.”

Our canoe is sinking. Pick up your buckets and start bailing now, before it’s too late.Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama

Going a step further in the pursuit of climate justice, Prime Minister of Tuvalu Kausea Natano and Gaston Browne Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, and current chair of the Alliance of Small States (AOISIS), signed an accord to open the way for litigation before international courts.

The agreement establishes a Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law, creating a body for the development and implementation of fair and just global environmental norms and practices. The Commission is also authorized to request advisory opinions from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) on the legal responsibility of States for carbon emissions, marine pollution, and rising sea levels.   

Membership in the Commission is open to all Small Island States whose leaders have long complained about the absence of effective mechanisms for states most responsible for climate change to compensate for the resulting loss and damage.

Prime Minister Browne explains the commission is not an act of aggression rather it is complimentary. “For climate justice we have to pursue different initiatives. This commission is one of them, proactive leadership.”

As co-chair Mr. Natano says this acts as an avenue for Small Island Developing States to move forward.

“The capital of Tuvalu alone sees 40% of land area go underwater during high tides and that is a very strong reason why Tuvalu wants to use the commission to push for the request to bring it up to the International Tribunal for Law of the Sea, and [International Court of Justice].”

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged support for Small Island States during COP26. Alongside India’s Prime Minister Modi they launched the Infrastructure for Resilient Island States (IRIS) facility, a joint initiative with the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI), and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Mr. Johnson says, “Small island states are uniquely threatened by climate change and rising sea levels. Two Pacific islands are at risk of disappearing by the end of this century, and some communities are already having to relocate.”

The new IRIS fund will support small island states to develop resilient, sustainable infrastructure that can withstand climate shocks, protecting lives and livelihoods.

Small island states in Paris managed to change the ambition and ensure we didn’t just commit to increasing temperatures to 2°C, but to keep it to 1.5. Because they know what the difference between 2°C and 1.5°C means, and it’s the difference for many people between life and death. And that’s the reality we have to face.United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson

The two week summit concludes on November 12.

Image credit: United Nations