Climate finance key priority for Pacific nations

Friday December 14, 2018 Published in Letters to the Editor
Climate finance key priority for Pacific nations

A key priority for my fellow Pacific Leaders and negotiators attending the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP24), is accessing climate finance, across all finance mechanisms of the UNFCCC and Paris Agreement.

As our people work to adapt their communities to deal with the effects of a changing climate, our countries must again call for the scaling up of climate related financing. Our small economies simply cannot afford these efforts on their own. We seek committed and reliable partners who can help us continue with our mitigation strategies and our adaptation needs.

We cannot ignore the signs anymore, and we definitely cannot deny the scientific findings of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report on global warming of 1.5 °C. According to the report, most adaptation needs will be lower for global warming of 1.5 °C compared to 2 °C. We need to act urgently. With small land masses and vast ocean surroundings. In the Cook Islands, sea level has risen by about 4mm a year since 1993. This figure is higher than the global average of 2.8 –3.6 mm per year. Our freshwater aquifers are being inundated by seawater and water levels are increasing over the reef flat, allowing larger waves to reach our shoreline. Around 80 per cent of all climate change funds are for mitigation projects, but we need allocations to focus on adaptation as well. The Cook Islands is pleased to have been able to access funding under the Adaptation Fund directly, and we have found the Green Climate Fund (GCF) Simplified Access Procedures (SAP) helpful in accessing climate change funds for low risk projects.

We are also pleased the Cook Islands Ministry of Finance became the second national implementing entity, and the only government central agency in the Pacific to be accredited for direct access to the GCF.

However, there is room for further improvement under the current finance mechanisms. For Pacific island countries, timely disbursement of funding is critical. Our Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) commitments are ambitious and we require external funding support to successfully implement them. The Adaptation Fund remains underfunded and we need to avoid these financing gaps going forward. It is important that developed countries should continue to maintain the $ US 100 billion goal, noting that this is only the minimum amount.

Our Pacific people depend on urgent and ambitious climate action at COP 24. We must ensure that the Implementation Guidelines for the Paris Agreement are concluded. We must ensure that the Talanoa Dialogue process leads to a strong political declaration and decision that responds to the IPCC 1.5 °C report and sets a pathway for enhanced Change Action. And we must ensure that timely and scaled up climate finance is made available to developing nations who need it most.

Henry Puna,

Prime Minister

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