Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown addresses COP 27. Photo: Office of the Prime Minister/22111134
It was my privilege to lead a delegation from the Cook Islands to Cop27, which was hosted by Egypt, at Sharm El Sheikh, writes Prime Minister Mark Brown.
Expectations of the delegation prior to leaving
were of cautious optimism across some of the key issues, including how the biggest
global emitters are finding ways to reduce emissions, and how the global
community will find ways to support nations like ours, as one of
those most vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.
Priority issues negotiated at COP27 were
ensuring that partners in developed countries enhanced their ambitions under
the Paris Agreement to keep global temperature increases to 1.5°C below
Other key issues included increasing the
pledges and commitments to support those most vulnerable through climate
finance, including the doubling of adaptation finance from 2019 levels.
There were also moves to reach an agreement
on an environmental loss and damage response facility, which will support developing
I also attended high-level events and
meetings where I took the opportunity to advocate for global island issues in
my capacity as Head of Government for the Cook Islands, and as a member of the
Alliance of Small Island States.
The Cook Islands is one of 14 countries
across the Pacific region where leaders have expressed their common and
collective view that we are facing a climate emergency.
We share the opinion that the global community
must act urgently to avert humanitarian disasters as a result of increased
extreme events such as more severe cyclones, high-intensity periods of heavy
rainfall periods and droughts that cause crop failures.
These short-term impacts, alongside the
slower-onset events such as sea-level rise and ocean acidification, will have a
profound and significant effect on the islands’ populations and flora and
fauna, including displacement and migration of communities as the effects take
Climate refugees, if you will.
Alongside other regional Pacific leaders,
I took this call to the developed nations of the world: they must raise their
ambitions and urgently reduce their emissions across their economies to save
the world and those who live at the forefront of climate change.
All of us recognise that the transition from
fossil fuel use and the phasing out of coal mining is a prerequisite in
enabling us all to meet the Paris Agreement target.
While the responsibility for climate
change lies at the feet of the developed world, large developing country
emitters must also transition their economies and reduce emissions.
Only through a collective approach will we
reach the goal and ensure human security is addressed.
The emission-reduction pathways we
advocate, for example, comprise a shift out of fossil fuel/coal power
generation and enable the transport sector a total shift away from the
All of these economy-wide shifts can be
achieved today, but they require a strong political will.
At COP27, the opening session of the high-level
segment gave the world’s leaders a platform to express their views on how
climate change and global warming can be addressed. The world just witnessed
Covid-19 and new conflicts are emerging, while old ones rage. We see on a daily
basis the cost of global disasters. We must, therefore, acknowledge the even
graver one posed by climate change.
Why is it so complex and difficult to
address climate change globally?
The real answer is the political
reluctance of governments to transition away from polluting technologies.
It is hard, expensive and requires real commitment.
But this brings me back to our nation, and
while we are a miniscule emitter in terms of global emissions, we are already
on a pathway to energy security, and to our communities adapting to the
We are reporting to the UN Climate
Convention and the Paris Agreement on our ambition and commitments to ensure we
play our part as a member of the global community.
We also see win-win benefits in terms of
our mainstay income earner, tourism.
With a tourism visitor ratio of 10
visitors to one resident, making the sector greener will have real impact, whether
that be more electric vehicles for visitors, renewable energy availability,
nature-based solutions to address coastal and foreshore erosion issues and
organic food production.
Each of these approaches will help the
Cook Islands meet its 2040 Net-Zero target, with technical and financial
support where needed, domestically and externally.
The Cook Islands is already experiencing
climate effects at the rate not previously expected, such as a higher than average
yearly sea-level rise across the nation, which has been monitored by gauges
over the past 10 years.
Increased melting of glaciers and the
Arctic ice cap, as recently announced, will add a further 200 millimetre of sea
level over the next 10-15 years.
This could mean displacement of
communities on our remote low-lying atoll islands, and increased frequency and
severity of impacts from storms and cyclones to our coastal communities
Over the past 10 years, the Cook Islands
has been experiencing increased occurrences of droughts on islands in the
northern part of the country that continue for months, whereas our southern
islands are at the same time experiencing high intensity but short rainfall
events with flooding and damage.
Regional and international scientists
report this state of affairs is a harbinger of full-fledged climate impacts.
Finally, we now
know that without collective will to address climate change and support to
vulnerable countries, we will overshoot the 1.5°C of the Paris Agreement.
picture is grim. Without any action, we are heading to a warmer world of an
average 2.8°C by 2100, if not before.
Sea levels would rise rapidly, mass
wildlife extinctions would occur, extreme events such as storms and wildfires
would destroy significant populations of humankind.
this is the type of world we want to leave to our children and their children,
then we need do nothing.
at COP27, even though politics is impeding collective agreements on many
issues, we all knew what was at stake and we all must do our part.