As the gavel dropped and cheers erupted, history was made at COP21.
For small Pacific Island nations this was a David and Goliath moment.
Despite immense odds, the world made a commitment to seriously tackle climate change by adopting the Paris Agreement.
The Pacific went to Paris staunch in their resolve to present a united voice on key issues they wanted reflected in the final agreement.
High on the collective agenda was the reduction of emissions to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The agreement needed to be legally binding, not just pledges, and include a transparent system that reviews progress every five years.
Strengthening the ability of Pacific Island nations to deal with, recover and adapt to climate impacts, through global support (including financial), also needed to be addressed.
The Pacific was heard.
Article 2 of the Paris Agreement sets a clear collective limit on the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels while striving for 1.5 degrees Celsius.
A matter of survival; the Pacific is already actively playing its part.
This major outcome reflects the 2015 Suva, Lifou and the Pacific Leaders climate change declaration held in Papua New Guinea in September this year.
In 2012, Tokelau became the first country in the world to move from diesel power generation to 100 percent solar energy.
Pacific nations also set ambitious targets in the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership, which are reflected in their Intended National Determined Contributions.
The Paris Agreement establishes this long-term temperature limit with a guide to achieving it.
Article 4 sends a clear message that we all envision a world that relies less on fossil fuels and strives towards renewable energy systems that would significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promote sustainable development and help eradicate poverty worldwide.
Article 8 recognizes loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change albeit without provision for liability and compensation. It lists areas of cooperation and facilitation to enhance understanding, action and support which in itself is a positive outcome for the Pacific and Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).
As the Pacific region’s principal scientific and technical development organization, the Pacific Community (SPC) assists island member states to adapt to climate change and its impacts through Pacific-specific mitigation and adaptation models and approaches.
The provision for financial and technical support of larger, industrialized nations (Article 7 and Article 9) is essential to this mandate.
To this end, SPC acknowledges the continued assistance of the European Union and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to its climate change and disaster risk reduction programs.
Article 21 outlines the process to get the agreement legally binding and we are optimistic that the goodwill shown in Paris will be matched with decisive action.
We did not get everything we asked for but through the effective collaboration between the Council of Regional Organizations in the Pacific and delegations, the Pacific has been visible, articulate and unwavering in its commitment.
The result is an agreement that signifies hope for our region’s future.
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