Delegates to the Tawara Climate Chance Conference (Image by: Government of Kiribati)

Article by Guest Contributor: Natalie Antonowicz

Held in Kiribati from 9 to 10 November, the Tawara Climate Change Conference produced the Ambo Declaration, which was signed by Australia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Fiji, Japan, Kiribati, Maldives, Marshall Island, New Zealand, Solomon Islands and Tonga. Although Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States also attended the conference, they chose to adopt observer status, and did not sign the declaration.

Other observers in attendance included representatives from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, UNFCCC and the World Bank. NGOs present included Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). This demonstrates significant attention to the issue from both intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.

The Tawara Conference represents the second meeting of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, or V11, created in 2009, as part of the Bandos Island Declaration, which was signed in the Maldives in 2009. The V11 comprises Bangladesh, Barbados, Bhutan, Ghana, Kenya, Kiribati, the Maldives, Nepal, Rwanda, Tanzania and Vietnam. These small island states and least developed countries are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change. They are also among the states least capable of adapting to the effects of environmental degradation.

In addition to its core members, the V11 also comprises the following observers: China, Denmark, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Such meetings are key, as they highlight the above stated goals of assuring cooperation, dialogue and partnership between developed and developing states, on issues of climate change financing and adaptation.

Kiribati’s President Anote Tong expressed his country’s goal of having the Ambo Declaration “contribute hopefully to some positive steps forward in the Cancun negotiations”. Presented in 18 points, the Ambo Declaration emphasizes signatories’ “concerns on the urgency of the climate crisis calling for immediate access to adaptation funds to meet and address current and projected impacts of climate change”.

President Tong stated “[t]he message we are trying to make here very clearly is that we are running out of time and as long as the global community continues to debate, it may be too late for small countries”. This indicates the sense of urgency brought to the negotiating table by Kiribati and similarly vulnerable countries.

The Ambo Declaration represents partnership and communication between vulnerable developing countries and their economically advanced counterparts. This is important because it demonstrates developed countries’ support for the unique vulnerability and plight of small island states. President Tong has expressed optimism at China’s signature of the declaration, but feels discouraged by the United Kingdom and United States’ reluctance to do the same, as the participation of these two countries is crucial to the success of any international environmental agreement.

Signatories will present the Ambo Declaration to the COP at the Cancun Conference, with the intention that it will provide “some positive steps forward” for the negotiations concerning financing for climate change adaptation. The ultimate goal of the Tawara Conference was to encourage developed countries to contribute funds to adaptation projects. It remains to be seen at Cancun whether any new agreement to this effect will be concluded. This may be unlikely, as representatives from France and the European Union – major voices at COP16 – have expressed their reluctance to commit to the declaration.

Signatories to the Ambo Declaration called for “decisions on an ‘urgent package’ to be agreed to at the COP 16 for concrete and immediate implementation reflecting the common ground of Parties, consistent with the principles and provisions of the Convention, and the Bali Action Plan, to assist those in most vulnerable States on the frontline to respond to the challenges posed by the climate change crisis”. Parties “welcome[d] the growing momentum and commitment for substantially increasing resources for climate change financing and call[ed] on developed country Parties to make available financial resources that are new and additional, adequate, predictable and sustainable, and on a clear, transparent and grant basis to developing country parties, especially the most vulnerable States on the front line, to meet and address current and projected impacts of climate change”. Developed country support was urged, particularly in terms of capacity building and technology transfer.

Signatories also “call[ed] on parties to the UNFCCC to consider the need for establishing an international mechanism responsible for planning, preparation for, and managing climate change related disaster risks in order to minimize and address the environmental and economic costs associated with loss and damage”. Finally, timeliness and transparency were urged, in order to ensure “a balanced allocation of resources between adaptation and mitigation”, and the consideration of “unique circumstances of most vulnerable States in the frontline”.

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