Pacific nations will be mostly unheard at critical COP26 climate summit

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Extinction Rebellion protesters march through Edinburgh
Extinction Rebellion protesters march through Edinburgh to the Scottish Parliament as COP26 gets under way in Glasgow. Image: APR/G

RNZ Pacific

Global climate talks have started in Glasgow, Scotland, but most Pacific leaders cannot get there.

While the leaders of four Pacific nations are attending the United Nations’ COP26 summit, covid travel restrictions are preventing the leaders of 10 Pacific nations from attending with their delegates.

Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown is one, and he said it was verging on hypocrisy that Pacific countries are denied a voice unless they attend in person.

COP26 GLASGOW 2021

“I would have been committed to go to Glasgow as one of the climate change champions for finance for the Pacific, but the situation, of course, with the outbreak in New Zealand – the travel restrictions meant that I could possibly be locked out of my own country for a period of time that wasn’t acceptable,” he said.

Brown said COP26 organisers should allow virtual voting.

“We’ve come through two years of attending virtual meetings with the covid situation, the inability to travel.”

Brown said the Cook Islands’ Europe-based representative would go to COP26 while he and his team would be pushing their climate messages hard from home.

Four Pacific leaders attending
Leaders from Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Tuvalu and Palau are attending the summit.

But covid-19 travel restrictions have grounded the leaders of 10 Pacific nations — the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Tonga, Samoa, Nauru, Marshall Islands, and Niue.

Meanwhile, travellers heading to Glasgow have been left stranded by major rail disruption caused by “intense storms”.

Hundreds of people were left waiting at London’s Euston station after fallen trees caused all trains to be suspended.

At the G20 summit in Rome, which would up on Monday morning, the leaders of the world’s richest economies have agreed to pursue efforts to limit global warming with “meaningful and effective actions”.

But the agreement made few concrete commitments, disappointing activists.

‘Little sense of urgency’
Oscar Soria, of the activist network Avaaz, said there was “little sense of urgency” coming from the group, adding: “There is no more time for vague wish-lists, we need concrete commitments and action.”

Host nation Italy had hoped that firm targets would be set before COP26.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said leaders’ promises without action were “starting to sound hollow”.

“These commitments… are drops in a rapidly warming ocean,” Johnson said.

The G20 group, made up of 19 countries and the European Union, accounts for 80 percent of the world’s emissions.

The communiqué, or official statement released by the leaders, also makes no reference to achieving net zero by 2050.

Net zero means reducing greenhouse gas emissions until a country is absorbing the same amount of emissions from the atmosphere that it is putting out.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi did, however, say in his closing statement that all of the G20 countries are committed to reaching the target by the mid-century.

Scientists have said this must be achieved by 2050 to avoid a climate catastrophe, and most countries have agreed to this.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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