By Atayi Babs, in BONN Germany
Non-state actors following negotiations at the Bonn climate talks also known as COP 23 have deplored the resort to empty words on climate change by global leaders during the high-level segment of the two-week conference.
Fijian Prime Minister and COP 23 President Frank Bainimarama at the high-level segment called on the country representatives to remain focused to ensure a successful outcome to the conference. “Future generations are counting on us. Let us act now”, he said.
Sequel to Bainimarama’s speech, a young boy from Fiji recounted the story of how his home was destroyed in a recent natural disaster, asking government representatives in the room “What can you do?” to protect the climate. “Climate change is here to stay, unless you do something about it”, he told the delegates.
Germany’s President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that recent extreme weather events have shown that time was pressing. “I have no doubt that this urgency warns us to make haste and act decisively”, he said.
The “historic climate agreement” reached in Paris in 2015 and “the path we have taken since” must remain irreversible. “Paris can only be called a breakthrough if we follow up on the agreement with actions”, said Steinmeier.
Hopes for a strong statement on Germany’s climate goals and the future role of coal were dashed as Chancellor Angela Merkel disappointed only called on the world to walk the talk on climate at the global conference in Bonn.
“This conference must send out the serious signal that the Paris Agreement was a starting point, but the work has only begun.” Today’s pledges in the nationally-determined contributions were not enough to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius, she said. “Now it’s about walking the talk.”
Speaking after the chancellor, French President Emmanuel Macron, said that the summit should send the message that “we can all come together” to mobilise the necessary public and private funds to act on climate.
To guarantee quality science needed to make climate policy decisions, Macron proposed that the EU should fill the financing gap for the IPCC left open by the US administration’s decision to reduce funding.
“France will meet that challenge, and I would like to see the largest number of European countries by our side,” said Macron. “All together, we can compensate for the loss of US funding.”
Reacting almost immediately after the high-level segment, civil society groups from across the world described their statements as empty words with no concrete plan of action.
The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, (PACJA) accused the leaders of “playing hide and seek” with the lives of Africans who according to them are being cut short daily due to historic and ongoing actions of the developed world against the climate.
What we need, according to John Bideri, co-Chair of the Alliance, are “enhanced actions on the provision of $100 billion per year up to 2020 and a new finance goal which should reflect the scientific requirements and needs of African countries.”
“Advocacy-tainted speeches by leaders of polluter countries will not keep global temperatures from unprecedented levels, what is important now is a finance goal that will first and foremost help African countries to adapt, mitigate and cover loss and damage arising from climate change impacts,” Mithika Mwenda, PACJA’s Secretary General added
“This message from the host of a world climate conference must sound cruel to the poorest countries most strongly affected by climate change”, commented Oxfam Germany’s climate expert Jan Kowalzig.
Germany ran the risk of missing its climate goals, while in Berlin “three out of four parties to a potential Jamaica coalition’ block the measures needed to prevent such an embarrassing failure”.
Greenpeace Germany’s Managing Director Sweelin Heuss said that Merkel “avoided to give the only answer she had to give in Bonn: When will Germany fully exit coal?” Without a coal exit, Germany could not meet the pledge it made in Paris. “That’s a disastrous signal coming out of this climate conference”, said Heuss.
Representatives from science, climate activists, and small island states appealed to Merkel to meet the country’s 2020 CO2 reduction target ahead of her much-anticipated speech.
Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), said Germany had the ability to quit coal use but instead there was the “perverse” situation where it generated power from coal, which then was exported.
“Angela Merkel has been a great climate champion but her credibility is hanging in the balance,” Jennifer Morgan, Executive Director of Greenpeace International, said.
President Hilda Heine, of the Marshall Islands, added: “We are just two metres above sea level. For Germany to phase-out coal and follow a 1.5°C pathway would be a signal of hope to us and all other nations in danger from climate change.”
As the COP winds to a close Friday, speculations are rife that the conference will end without substantially addressing relevant concerns on temperature limits, finance and other means of implementation for the Paris Agreement.