In an effort to ensure momentum on climate action despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) convened a forum focused on increasing ambition towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. The event provided the opportunity for AOSIS members and others to highlight synergies between the disruption of COVID-19 and climate change, and the ways in which responses to the pandemic support more sustainable climate action and ambition in the lead up to the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) to the UNFCCC and beyond.
The Placencia Ambition Forum convened virtually from 20-22 April 2020, and was hosted by the Government of Belize, which is currently serving as AOSIS Chair.
The Forum made the case for accelerating inclusive, green transitions, with COVID-19 magnifying the importance of the priorities of small island developing States (SIDS) for the global climate change agenda. For example, reduced use of transport and energy demand due to the pandemic show that change is possible.
Addressing the Forum, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that retreating on climate action in the face of the pandemic is not an option given that the social and economic devastation caused by climate disruption will be exponentially greater than the COVID-19 crisis. He emphasized the need to “build back better” from the pandemic and use the recovery from COVID-19 impacts to ensure a more sustainable and resilient future. He said he will continue to advocate for debt relief, including for middle-income countries (MICs), to enable SIDS to survive both the impacts of COVID-19 and climate change.
Others also reiterated their support for SIDS. For example, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) committed to work on innovative financial structuring to ensure that stimulus packages do not compound the debt burden faced by SIDS, and to improve access to finance, especially in response to the pandemic.
The Forum reiterated that the intersecting climate and COVID-19 crises require actions that simultaneously address both challenges, with stimulus packages and other COVID-19 responses that are aligned with climate targets and that enable transition to greener, cleaner, and more resilient societies. For example, expanding renewable energy capacity in SIDS and least developed countries (LDCs) is consistent with efforts to enhance the sustainable water and energy supply required for medical purposes.
The Forum resulted in a Declaration titled, ‘2020 – Our Year of Ambition,’ which calls for:
- ambitious, detailed, new or updated nationally determined contributions (NDCs) that will close the gap between where we are now and where we need to be to limit global warming to 1.5°C;
- new financial commitments that deliver on support and reflect ambition, including deeper discussions at COP 26 on the long-term finance goal to provide certainty for more ambitious mid- to long-term climate actions; and
- enhanced near-term action to protect the vulnerable, including short-term action and domestic reform within the context of building long-term resilience.
The Declaration also urges countries to follow through with COVID-19 recovery plans that incorporate policies and measures that help jump start NDC implementation and lead to enhanced ambition and action. It calls for a ‘Roadmap for Political Momentum’ towards COP 26, and welcomes the Group of 20 (G20) commitment to use the SDGs and other international commitments to guide recovery from COVID-19.
The Declaration explains that the health and climate crises both reveal vulnerabilities to systemic shocks and demand unprecedented transitions to “flatten their respective curves and drive an exponential shift in their trajectories.” The Declaration calls for 2020 to be “the year of ambition,” beginning with plans to change emission trajectories towards achieving 1.5°C.
AOSIS Forum Calls for “Year of Ambition” on Climate ActionThe Forum fed into the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, which recognized efforts of the Placencia Ambition Forum to maintain the momentum in addressing climate change despite the COVID-19 pandemic. [AOSIS Placencia Ambition Forum Webpage] [Recap of the Placencia Ambition Forum]
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