This year’s UN Climate Change Conference kicked off in Bonn this week with strong, unified calls to hold to the path of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
The opening of the conference takes place against this year’s background of destructive hurricanes, fires, floods, droughts, melting ice and impacts on agriculture which threaten food security.
“All over the world, vast numbers of people are suffering – bewildered by the forces ranged against them. Our job as leaders is to respond to the suffering with all means available to us,” said newly elected COP23 President, Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. “This means to meet our commitments in full, not back away from them.”
Mr Bainimarama said that Fiji is working to build a “Grand Coalition” throughout the year between governments at every level, civil society, the private sector and faith-based organizations.
At COP23, the COP President intends to meet with as many non-state actors as he can who are part of this coalition.
UN Climate Change Executive Secretary of Patricia Espinosa said: “Together with the Sustainable Development Agenda, we have a clear path forward to truly address climate change and sustainable development.”
Ms. Espinosa outlined the work governments will be looking to address in Bonn – above all to take the next essential steps to ensure that the Paris Agreement’s operating system is completed in time and ways and means to implement it are strengthened.
This is essential so that the ultimate goal of the Paris Agreement can be achieved – to hold the global average temperature rise from pre-industrial time to well below 2 degrees Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees.
Ms Espinosa underlined that immediate progress was urgent. “We need to move forward to fulfil the commitments that are due in 2020. In this regard, finance and pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions are key,” she said.
Whilst Fiji has the Presidency of COP23, the Government of Germany is providing the substantial and generous logistical resources.
German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks reiterated her countries support for the UN and pointed out that as the home of the UN Climate Change Secretariat, Bonn is evolving into a global center of climate action and an international hub for sustainable development.
The German Minister also had some good news with regard to finance for developing countries. She announced that Germany would support the UN’s Adaptation Fund with an additional 50 million Euros in 2017.
During COP23, the city of Bonn will not only host the conference, but many cultural events that will help bring climate action closer to people in the city.
Many Bonn citizens are engaged as volunteers. And Bonn schools are on board, including the school children who sang along with artist Bernadette La Hengst in the COP23 song “I’m an Island”, a contribution to the conference by Theater Bonn Save the World Festival led by Nicola Bramkamp with the help of Germany’s Development Ministry.
By Marc Philips