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Pacific SIDS Champion Oceans and Blue Economy Preparing for COP 26

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Viewpoint by P.I. Gomes*

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago (IDN) – On December 10, 2020, marking five years since the adoption of the landmark Paris Agreement of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Heads of Government and Leaders of the Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS) deemed it fit to convene a High-Level Roundtable on Urgent Climate Change Action in Tuvalu.

The forceful and dedicated manner by which Pacific Leaders have called for Climate Action is truly commendable as demonstrated once again by convening the Roundtable. Conscious of the devastating consequences of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Leaders have nevertheless urged that the pandemic’s manifold impact must not defer concerted and sustained commitment to the Paris Agreement. This is critical as Pacific governments and civil society with their political dialogue partners undertake and encourage preparations for COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland in November 2021.

The Pacific confab, took place two days prior to a virtual UN Global Climate Ambition Summit, held on December 12, 2020, that was hosted by the UK government as part of preparations for COP 26.

The Pacific Leaders used their Roundtable to reinforce their narrative of the Blue Pacific Continent and called on the international community to “reset and take immediate and decisive climate change action”.

According to Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary-General of the Pacific Forum, the Leaders are convinced that: “Time is running out fast to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius” and their strong desire is for the 2021 COP 26 to “focus on solutions, actions and big decisions”.

Understandably so for Pacific SIDS, facing on a daily basis, more intense threats of flooding, typhoons as global warming continues, and sea-levels rise shows no sign of abating. Their scepticism remains justified as the main polluters – China, USA and industrialised countries – fail to meet Green House Gas (GHG) reduction targets in these five years since the Paris Agreement.

SDG 14 on Oceans and the Blue Pacific: their existence & livelihoods.

While unequivocal and forceful in their plea to polluters and enduring the threats of sea-level rise and destruction of marine resources from, for example, over-fishing by large-scale trawlers, Pacific SIDS consistently pursue their larger vision and identity of the ‘Blue Pacific’.

This is “a generative theme” or some intrinsic driving force of everyday life, according to Paulo Freire’s thinking.  It is a vision deeply embedded in the livelihood and historic existence of island societies and their peoples’ way of life, in which the Oceans, Seas and Marine Life constitute their DNA.

The centuries of their home in, and with, the world’s vast Pacific Ocean inspire their engagement and narrative for “blueness and beauty” of the Ocean. Hence their appeal that time is running out and action is demanded. It is the Ocean and Marine resources that provide and need to guarantee their trade, fishing, food, nutrition and health as well as economic and social activities in tourism, sport, music, arts and craft.

The commitment and thrust for action to fulfil the economic, social and environmental needs of Pacific Leaders and Peoples is genuinely grounded in UN Agenda 2030 and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

These are holistic, indivisible and interconnected in order to serve today’s needs and not compromise the means and opportunities of future generations to meet their own. Among those goals, so striking and pertinent is the imperative of sustainability for Pacific societies as expressed in SDG 14 – “to conserve and sustainably use the Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources for sustainable development.”  

The tasks and concrete measures taken to realise this goal cannot be for the Pacific alone but find their fortune in common actions with island societies and coastal communities across the globe.

Pacific SIDS to join forces with the ACP Forum and AOSIS

The scope and complexity of the threats confronting Pacific SIDS call for global alliances for their effective prevention and ultimate resolution. With good reason and significant success to date the ACP Forum on SIDS in collaboration with AOSIS – Alliance of Small Island states – they together constitute a formidable force for concerted action.

Of special value will be ACP-OASIS joint action and cooperation to protect and improve livelihoods of Pacific communities in the area of fisheries and aquaculture, mainly for artisanal fishers among whom many are women. In this regard, mobilization of the ACP Fisheries Mechanism can prove extremely beneficial.

The Mechanism will allow access to financial assistance and technical expertise, in several areas that include: improving management of small-scale fisheries and aquaculture operations, obtaining optimal returns from fisheries trade and ensuring fish products for exports satisfy the sanitary standards of the desired markets.

Already a good track record has been built-up by projects such as the ACP-EDF programme on Strengthening Fishery Products Health Conditions with relevant lessons learned that can be shared and upscaled among Pacific fishers.

Also of interest would be the UNIDO’s Large Marine Ecosystems (LME) programme aimed directly at implementation of SDG 14 addressing fishing industry-related targets to “effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and destructive practices” so detrimental to sustainable livelihoods in the Pacific and other SIDS in the global South.

Following the great example of the Pacific Leaders at their recent Roundtable, a strong alliance of SIDS ought to be forged and become effectively prepared to enable COP 26, when it meets in Glasgow, Scotland next November, to arrive at a strategic road-map for robust action on behalf of fishers and their coastal communities in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific. 

The Organisation of African, Caribbean & Pacific States (OACPS), formerly the ACP Group of States, has welded together on the ideology of unity and solidarity, negotiating capacity and responsive institutional structures to achieve objectives of trade, cultural cooperation and regional integration. [IDN-InDepthNews – 13 December 2020]

*The writer, Dr Patrick I Gomes, was Secretary-General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States for five years until February 29, 2020. The 79-nation inter-regional body officially became the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) on April 5, 2020. Dr Gomes was previously Ambassador of the Republic of Guyana, to the EU in Brussels.

Image credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

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