Let’s support the world’s most vulnerable nations - and their first carbon-free summit

If you don’t know them, this is a good time to become familiar with the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), a group of around 50 countries that are the most vulnerable to climate impacts. They help raised the ambition of the Paris climate agreement in 2015. I still remember how the media portrayed their influence in the negotiations: “They are the small guys moving the big guys”. In a world that is obsessed with big economies, big investments, and the leaders of big nations, it is easy to forget the smaller players. That is why the CFV was born: to ensure that the most vulnerable countries come together in their calls for faster and bigger climate actions.

Their common aspiration is to unleash the power of collaboration. This year the CVF will convene the first carbon-free summit of leaders on 22 November 2018. That is, politicians will not fly to the venue. Instead, the Summit will be held online as a first Virtual Summit (#VirtualClimateSummit) of global political leaders. The Marshall Islands will host it as the incoming chair of the Forum. Because I travel a lot to conferences (and also skip several of them) and I celebrate this call for a virtual gathering to increase dialogue while not creating travel-and-lodging related emissions.

By designing this concept, the online summit aims to inspire leaders to be more creative and resourceful – think of all the money that is saved too. The Summit has other objectives including the call to support the most vulnerable people to impacts of climate change.


By designing this concept, the online summit aims to inspire leaders to be more creative and resourceful

How does the CVF operate? A Troika (currently led by Ethiopia with Costa Rica and the Philippines as co-chairs) and a Secretariat guide the Forum. It also has a group of international advisers (I have been one along with colleagues from varied organizations in several continents).

The Summit will highlight new national efforts to reduce emissions, share perspectives on climate risks and on opportunities of putting the world on a safer 1.5oC pathway. The CVF is keen to highlight what these countries are already doing even if they are low emitters– this is not about complaints or finger-pointing. Instead, it is a forum that seeks to inspire many more countries to do (much) more and to do it faster. This group of countries seek to build much wider international support for pragmatic climate action and, to help ensure that the necessary resources and finance are delivered to make this possible.

This CVF Virtual Summit will follow the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Special Report on 1.5°C in October 2018. This Report matters. For many vulnerable countries the inclusion of the 1.5°C in the Paris Agreement goal was an big victory. A reminder that as a society we have grown complacent vis-a-vis the climate risks we face. Including 1.5°C in the Paris Agreement was understood as the safest achievable temperature limit. A call for bigger and faster actions from governments, companies and consumers. Because as Saleemul Huq from Bangladesh has said "Not everyone is safe with 2°C, and we are the countries that will not make it".

You might have heard that this year Katowice, Poland will host the annual climate summit that the UN organizes each year (COP24 in climate negotiators jargon). Governments have put together the “Talanoa Dialogue”, to find ways to accelerate climate action and to confront global efforts to reduce emissions to fulfill the Paris Agreement. In this context, this June, 24 smaller nations called for more determined climate action.

The President of Marshall Islands, a woman, stated that:

If we do not raise global ambition by 2020, it will be too late for my island nation. This means increasing the targets we set before we agreed the Paris Agreement in 2015 – as the Marshall Islands has already committed to do. We also need to set clear pathways to reach net zero emissions at the latest by 2050 – our own 2050 Strategy will be finalized this year.

Costa Rica is vulnerable to climate change. It has been part of the CVF and has supported the Forum as member of the Troika. I look forward to our President's participation in the virtual summit. He is the youngest President of the Americas and in his recent inauguration stated that our country will be one of the first countries to go fossil free. We are working on our 2050 pathway too. Much of my work centers on building a society that gets rid of fossil fuels and 2018-2022 will be a key period given that our President wants to make this a highlight of his Presidency.

Helping CVF as an adviser has been one of the most energizing professional experiences I had in the context of the international climate negotiators not only because of the specific countries that conform the Forum - and the moral imperative to protect the most vulnerable - but also because of the network of experts and advocates that understand the importance of supporting the smaller, vulnerable nations. It is easy to put all the attention on the important economies such as the G20– which is understandable given their influence – but it is insufficient to shift the debate and to embrace the resilience imperative. This network understands we need to promote action everywhere, empower the champions, and nurture smart collaborations to do things differently. This virtual summit signals that the time has come to try new approaches and to find strength in much deeper collaboration.

Social media

Follow @TheCVF @CAN_Int @MonicaArayaTica

For updates https://thecvf.org/ #VirtualClimateSummit

For more information about Monica Araya's work click here.


Photo credit: By Christopher Michel from San Francisco, USA - JJ7V2741.jpg, CC BY 2.0, available here.

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