The United Nations COP26 climate change conference, held in Glasgow this month, was seen as the last chance to save the future of life on earth by ensuring that global warming was 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit ) does not exceed.
There were notable pledges from participating nations to phase back the use of coal and fossil fuels, halt deforestation, and encourage the move to zero-emission modes of transport.
But for many Pacific Islanders, the summit failed because of crucial measures needed to ensure global warming is contained and denied justice to the nations most at risk of climate-induced poverty.
âGlasgow missed the 1.5 degree target. It was the expectation of the Pacific that this would be firmly and irrevocably secured in Glasgow, âSatyendra Prasad, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations in New York, told Al Jazeera. âWe are now dependent on large emitters to offer deeper emissions reductions. But the second part of the equation is more important. These countries have fewer and fewer years to reach the cuts before 1.5 degrees are permanently lost. “
The 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) threshold can only be reached if global CO2 emissions are reduced to net zero by 2050, said UN climate scientists.
“To everyone in the world who still listens to the Pacific, I would like to remind you that 1.5 is the last possible compromise the Pacific can offer the world,” added Prasad. âYou also ask your leaders to reject the right to exist as countries on our common planet. Losing 1.5 is a declaration of war on Pacific governments, it is a declaration of war on our communities and our peoples. It’s that simple – period. “
In July, three months before the summit opened, Pacific Island leaders attended a preliminary meeting of the Pacific-UK High-Level Climate Dialogue with Conference President Alok Sharma. They called for nations’ emissions reduction targets to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2025 – in their view, the mid-century deadline is too late – and that developed countries deliver on their 2009 promise to raise US $ 100 billion. To provide dollars per year to finance climate protection and adaptation to climate change in more vulnerable countries.
To set a precedent, the parties to the summit confronted the fossil fuel issue with a group of 190 nations, regions, and organizations who agreed to accelerate the transition from unabated coal-fired power.
In another pact, more than 100 nations have pledged to stop and reverse forest destruction and land degradation by 2030. Governments and automakers, including Ford, General Motors, Jaguar, and Mercedes-Benz, have also committed to making zero-emission vehicles more accessible and affordable. Road traffic is responsible for 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Countries including Denmark, Japan, Great Britain, the United States and New Zealand have also pledged to reduce aviation emissions and invest in the development of low-carbon and carbon-free aircraft.
âAbove all, we have to thank the major issuers for making significant commitments. The combined actions between the energy, transport, agriculture and shipping sectors are important. You will shape the industry and the individual and get them to do moreâ¦. Climate protection is good business. I think Glasgow really showed that, âsaid Prasad.
Ashwini Prabha-Leopold, chairman of the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network, told Al Jazeera that the agreement to phase out coal does not go far enough.
âAfter 30 years, governments finally had the courage to speak openly about the fossil fuel dependency problem at COP26, but failed to include a bold solution in their final results. Future COPS must build on the small steps taken in the Glasgow Accords and go beyond mild language that ultimately serves the interests of fossil fuels, âsaid Prabha-Leopold.
Scientists estimate that the collective pledges made in Glasgow would result in an estimated global temperature rise of 2.4 degrees Celsius (4.3 degrees Fahrenheit).
The islanders believe this would be devastating for countries like Papua New Guinea (PNG).
âWe would continue to experience warmer than normal air temperatures, as we are currently seeing, and sea levels are rising. Our economy, particularly the fishing industry, could be at risk. Coral bleaching will continue to increase and PNG will see an increase in flooding due to extreme weather conditions, “Ksolel Posanau, climate research officer for PNG’s National Weather Service in Port Moresby, told Al Jazeera.
Much of the anger and frustration expressed by Pacific Islanders stems from the injustice of their predicament. While the Pacific Islands region has only contributed 0.03 percent to global greenhouse gas emissions, they face rising sea levels, increasing ocean waves, king floods and regular destruction from cyclones on a daily basis.
More than half of the population of the Pacific Islands with around 12 million inhabitants live less than a kilometer from the sea. Extreme climates and weather affect people’s access to food and fresh water. And ocean acidification is likely to affect fishing, a critical industry that islanders depend on for food, income and national exports.
“PNG’s weather and climate have changed in the past ten, even five years,” said Posanau. âI work with climate data every day and see this trend. Our rainy and dry seasons no longer fall within the normal transition months, and there have also been high incidences of dengue fever, malaria, viral infections and even heat rashes. “
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes that “it is clear that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land” and is affecting weather extremes in every part of the world.
Many Pacific island nations argue that the long-term climate finance pledge of $ 100 billion a year is therefore crucial for them to build resilience.
âThe basic fact is that the rich world has failed, Fiji has proposed, with considerable support, that the post-2025 package should have a lower limit of $ 750 billion and that small frontline states have a special one Should have a financing window of 10 percent of it. Fiji has also said that most of the climate finance for small frontline states should come in the form of grants rather than loans, “said Prasad of Fiji.
The financing of climate-related damage is also demanded by many in the region.
âLoss and damage are life and death in the Pacific region and the political will of world leaders is required to support the Pacific island nations as they are already losing everything to the devastating effects of climate change. The failure of global leaders to address this key area is very disappointing and unsatisfactory, âTanya Afu, a climate activist in the Solomon Islands, told Al Jazeera.
In light of the results in Glasgow, Prasad said, âHas the world secured a path to the end of the fossil fuel age? No. Has the world ensured intensive and concentrated climate protection measures to the extent necessary in this decade? Noâ¦. However, there is hope that the world can reach 1.5 degrees when its leaders meet in Egypt. “
The next climate summit will take place in the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Sheikh in a year.