The Sisters of The Good Samaritan - Protection of Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults
March 2011

Cancun conference provides some hope

While not a perfect outcome, the building blocks for further global action were set in train at last year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, says Good Samaritan Sister Geraldine Kearney.

BY Therese Spruhan

Geraldine attended the conference from November 29 to December 10, 2010 as the delegate for social responsibility for the Pacific Calling Partnership (PCP) and as a member of Climate Action Network Australia (CANA).

Forming her delegation were Phil Glendenning, Director of the Edmund Rice Centre, Jill Finnane, Co-ordinator for PCP, Maria Tiimon, Pacific Outreach Officer for PCP and Claire Anterea and Toani Benson representatives of Kiribati Climate Action Network. Members of PCP also worked closely with the Kiribati Government delegation, and Jill, Claire and Geraldine held official entry into the party negotiations.

As well as attending several plenary sessions, Geraldine and her fellow PCP delegates publicised the situation facing low-lying Pacific islands such as Kiribati through a number of side events.

“Once again, after being present in Bali and Copenhagen, it was imperative that we were present at the UNFCCC [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] in Cancun to do all in our power to let the voices of some of the most vulnerable communities be heard and for them also to be seen!” Geraldine said.

One of the most powerful presentations was the screening of Linda Uan’s film, Kiribati and Climate Change. One viewer commented that in just nine minutes it brought together the science, the human experience, the political difficulties and the need for action.

While the package of decisions made at Cancun was not perfect, Geraldine said there was a groundswell of support and acknowledgement that the global community needed to accept their share of accountability and to move forward.

“However, what is ultimately required is the implementation of global emissions reduction schemes that will generate long term financing to facilitate development and adaptation in developing countries,” she said.

“The current pledges are still below the targets that will take us to below two degrees warming. We need to have a second commitment to the Kyoto Protocol and further negotiations that will deliver a fair, ambitious and legally binding deal in the near future.”

One of the decisions made at the conference was a commitment of a total of $30 billion in fast-start finance from industrialised countries to support climate action in the developing world up to 2012, and an intention to raise $100 billion in long-term funds by 2020.

Geraldine said commitments of fast-start financial packages for adaptation in developing countries provided some hope.

“However, we need to focus on the term ‘fast-start’ and deter any delays in dispensing these packages as these commitments will benefit developing countries especially low-lying Pacific Islands.

“Delays will only impede the immediate action required NOW as Pacific Islands have no time left to bear the brunt of prolonged, pointless and endless negotiations.”

Geraldine said Australia’s announcement on delivering their fast-start finance commitments as part of their promise made under the Copenhagen Accord echoes a willingness and hope to move forward constructively.

“It is hoped this does not become tied up in political and bureaucratic red tape at the expense of the communities such as Kiribati and Tuvalu, most in need of financial assistance.”

Geraldine added that she was honoured to be part of the delegation and to be able to work in close liaison with the Kiribati Government.

This article was first published in the December 2010 edition of Pathways, the e-newsletter of Catholic Religious Australia.

The Good Oil

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