Majuro Declaration signals Pacific discontent with climate negotiations

31/10/2013 09:08

By Cherelle Jackson

APIA: The signing of the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership last month in the Marshall Islands by the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum has sent a strong signal of political discontent in the region over international climate negotiations.

“Waiting for a new global agreement will not be enough.  Accelerating climate action before 2020 is critical.  This is the urgency of now,” the Declaration states.

In a concise and focused way, the Declaration highlights the Pacific’s political commitment to be a region of Climate Leaders, and its effort to spark a “new wave of climate leadership” that accelerates the reduction and phasing down of greenhouse gas emissions.

It is also the first text of its kind from the Pacific region to encourage commitments from both governments and non-state actors, including cities, companies and other organizations and is intended to complement and build momentum under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at a crucial time.

The 12-page document says governments in the region are committed to demonstrating 'climate leadership' and calls on countries to list 'specific' pledges to reduce pollution.

Commentators and Leaders have expressed support for the declaration.

One noted that it recognises the complete insufficiency of current efforts to address climate change, and the responsibility of all to act urgently to phase-down greenhouse gas pollution.

According to one commentator the spirit of the agreement is to reframe the “I won’t move till you move first” stance many world governments continue to hold, to an “I’m moving and I invite you to move with me” one. According to the same commentator if more countries follow this lead, it would totally change the dynamic within the UN climate negotiations.

The Declaration is positive in that it demonstrates solidarity between small island nations of the Pacific on an issue that threatens the survival of some islands. It demonstrates to the international community that Pacific Island Governments were willing to act outside of internationally mandated political responses in order to find a solution to the problem, perhaps critically that it was willing to work with partners outside of the political realm, which include the private sector, civil societies and others.

"The responsibility of all to act falls to every government, every company, every organization and every person with the capacity to do so, both individually and collectively," it says. The text underlines the intense frustration among leaders of small island states at the sluggish progress at the UN in cutting global greenhouse gas emissions.

On the other hand the Declaration may have a negative impact on the Pacific’s engagement at the international negotiations, and ultimately may backfire in the regions attempts to be considered as a legitimate voice at the UNFCCC negotiations as they  may be seen as disrespecting the international process and reinventing the wheel.

The negative implications of the declaration may be much greater than a region discontent with the status quo of UN negotiations on climate change, although honourable in its intention, the Declaration could inadvertently signal concrete steps by regions to disregard international processes and focus on their own regional approaches.

Despite this, what the Declaration has proven however it is that the Pacific are no longer spectators in the international scene of climate change but proactive members of the international community, willing and able to make their voices heard on this critical issue that is a matter of survival for some.