Fiji climate lead challenged Western consultants’ influence before losing job

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Fiji climate lead challenged Western consultants’ influence before losing job

ANALYSIS: By Megan Darby, deputy editor of Climate Change News

Fiji’s presidency of the United Nations climate talks was an unprecedented opportunity for the Pacific island state to make its mark internationally.

But the sudden removal of chief climate negotiator Nazhat Shameem Khan last month, despite praise for her leadership, revealed a rift between the Geneva-based diplomat and capital Suva.

At the centre of the fight is a group of Australian and European consultants brought in to assist the Fiji government to deliver its biggest diplomatic challenge. Shameem Khan had increasingly objected to the prominent role these outsiders had within Fiji’s presidency.

In exclusive interviews with Climate Home News, insiders said this eventually led to her ousting, with Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama taking the consultants’ side. They raised concerns that Fiji ceding control to unaccountable professionals jeopardised a critical year of climate talks.

“In the world of [UN climate negotiations], to see a small island state in the presidency being closely managed and controlled by consultants from developed countries is not good for trust and goodwill,” a source from the Fiji delegation told Climate Home News.

“But [the consultants] refused to take a back seat and we had difficulties in relation to this.”

Another member of the national staff, contacting CHN independently, said: “Most of their advice and interference was harmful rather than helpful… They undermined us and didn’t understand the local dimensions.”

Both sources spoke on condition of anonymity.

Fijian PM Statement 070318 by Megan Darby on Scribd

No response at first
CHN
asked Bainimarama’s office about the circumstances surrounding Shameem Khan’s removal, specifically about her objections regarding consultants. But no response was made to this point.

Writing to Climate Home News prior to publication, Bainimarama said any suggestion the country had been unduly influenced was “false and mischievous”. After this article was published, he issued a further statement, embedded above.

Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama visiting Bonn Zone during COP23 … his speech in Parliament this week spoke of “a rejuvenated team”. Image: COP23.com

In a speech to the Fijian Parliament on Monday, Bainimarama alluded to the deterioration in the relationship. After thanking Shameem Khan for her work, he said the country needed “a rejuvenated team unquestionably willing to work with all members of the COP23 [climate talks] presidency”.

Her replacement Luke Daunivalu, Fiji’s permanent representative to the UN in New York, was “a team player”, said Bainimarama, with the “personal qualities and experience to shape the consensus for more ambition the world needs to reach”.

Sources said Shameem Khan raised the concerns in this article with Bainimarama and his attorney general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum over the past six months, as well as directly asking the consultants to keep a low profile.

Lead diplomat: Bonn climate talks must ‘restate vision of Paris’

Fiji’s presidency of the climate talks centred on the UN Conference of Parties (COP) in Bonn in November 2017 and will continue throughout 2018 to COP24.

To help with the huge undertaking, the Fijian government hired consultants, including law firm Baker McKenzie, climate experts Systemiq and public relations specialists Qorvis. An Australian, John Connor, was appointed as executive director. It is not unusual for national delegations, particularly small or poor countries with limited capacity, to take external advice.

They were paid through funds donated by other countries, with the bulk coming from the developed world.

Fiji wins chalked up
The consultants chalked up wins for Fiji, brokering a $50 million green bond for the island nation and coordinating “America’s Pledge” with California governor Jerry Brown and business leader Mike Bloomberg.

Initially, Shameem Khan and her team relied on consultants, UN officials and former presidents of the climate talks to bring them up to speed on the issues and processes. As they became more knowledgeable, though, they quickly came to question the consultants’ advice and level of influence over the strategy.

“The balance of power was wrong from day one,” said the first Fijian delegation source. “They were telling us how to run the Cop at a visionary level.”

Report: Fiji announces $50m ‘climate bond’ ahead of COP23 presidency

Ahead of the Bonn summit, China and other emerging economies raised concerns that consultants paid for by countries such as Australia were drafting statements for a Pacific island that were seen to favour developed world narratives. A non-Fijian source familiar with the matter told Climate Home News these tensions fuelled a spat over pre-2020 action that came to dominate the conference.

Closer to home, Pacific campaigners were outraged to discover Fiji was not planning to make “loss and damage”, UN jargon for support for the victims of climate disaster, a key theme of its presidency. They saw it as a top priority for the vulnerable region.

A briefing note circulated by Baker McKenzie’s Martijn Wilders in March 2017 explicitly ruled out loss and damage as a theme. “This will be considered in April but we need to take care for now as to what we promote,” he wrote in an accompanying email seen by Climate Home News.

“[The consultants] are so closely aligned to developed country policies,” said the first Fijian source. “They were trying to protect us from doing something very controversial, but unfortunately, they forgot the developing country views.”

‘Extensive consultation’
A spokesperson for the presidency in Suva said the position on loss and damage was the result of “extensive consultation with a range of Fijian and international experts”. These included a past president of the climate talks, officials from the UN climate body and Shameem Khan.

“It was a position that was conscious of the role of COP president and mandate to operationalise the Paris Agreement” and “supported by all in the Fijian delegation”.

Report: No finance plan for climate change victims in draft UN decision

While these wider political fights played out, relations within the presidency became increasingly strained.

Shameem Khan’s allies say consultants frequently went over her head to Bainimarama’s number two, Sayed-Khaiyum, a government minister. A spokesperson for the presidency said Sayed-Khaiyum had never overruled Shameem Khan on negotiation issues.

At the Bonn summit itself, the rift hampered communications. Bainimarama’s speeches were co-written by Graham Davis of PR firm Qorvis and UK-based consultant James Cameron, a longtime adviser of island states in climate negotiations.

Cameron was attending the delegation’s morning meetings but had been largely relegated from the negotiating rooms.

According to the first Fijian source, Shameem Khan was not consulted on the speeches and they did not reflect the state of play of negotiations.

‘Real embarrassment’
“It was a real embarrassment. When I look back, it is a miracle COP23 had any successes at all,” said the source.

Davis said Shameem Khan had “ample opportunity” to raise concerns about the content of the speeches with him and had not done so. Cameron declined to comment.

“As the prime minister’s principal speechwriter for the past five years, I have consistently conveyed the Fijian government’s advocacy of the need for more ambitious climate action,” Davis told Climate Home News by email.

It is not the first time Qorvis’ influence on Fiji’s government has been questioned. In November, a former public servant told Australia’s ABC he had lost his job after refusing to become a “lackey” for the PR firm.

Report: Poland to put ‘common sense’ over climate ambition as host of critical UN talks

Fiji passes the baton this year to Poland, which is hosting the next climate summit in December. Bainimarama told Parliament Fiji would continue to preside over a mass outreach programme, known as the “talanoa dialogue”, in partnership with Poland after its formal term ended.

“Because the Talanoa concept was Fiji’s idea, we will continue to lead and shape that dialogue,” he said, “in a way that no Pacific nation has ever had the opportunity to do before.”

Sources on both sides of the internal dispute raised fears that without Fiji’s partnership, Poland would take a less progressive approach, in light of its domestic attachment to coal.

Pacific campaigners expressed concerns at the impact of Shameem Khan’s removal. “Her voice will be missed,” said the Pacific Island Climate Action Network in a press release last Friday, urging Daunivalu to keep the design of the talanoa dialogue “fully with Fijians”.

Citing the most ambitious warming limit in the Paris Agreement, policy officer Genevieve Jiva said: “It is crucial that the talanoa dialogue is focused on ambition and aimed at keeping global temperature rise to 1.5C. For Pacific islanders, nothing less is acceptable because we are fighting for our survival.”

This article was first published in Climate Change News and has been republished by Asia Pacific Report under a Creative Commons licence.

Interview with Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan, chief negotiator for the Fijian COP 23 Presidency from POLITICO.eu on Vimeo.

Strong leadership needed to drive COP Pacific climate goals, says Greenpeace

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Strong leadership needed to drive COP Pacific climate goals, says Greenpeace

“Together, we must take action to protect our world” – Shalvi Shakshi’s inspirational climate story. Video: UNICEF

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Greenpeace has called for climate leadership to emerge from the Pacific COP, saying leaders must listen to the need for urgency and transform their energy and land-use systems.

The Trump administration failed to stop the global climate talks from moving forward, despite its announcement to withdraw from the Paris Agreement.

But the world is still in urgent need of action, says Greenpeace.

Jens Mattias Clausen, head of Greenpeace’s political delegation in Bonn, Germany, said:

“Leaders must now go home and do the right thing, prove that they have listened to the voices of the Pacific, with all their hurt and hope, and understand the urgency of our time. Talk is not good enough and we still lack the action we need.

-Partners-

“We call on France, Germany, China and others to step up and display the leadership they claim to stake. Clinging to coal or nuclear power and parading as climate champions while failing to accelerate the clean energy transition is nothing but bad faith.”

Failed to deliver concrete support
This year’s COP placed heightened attention on climate impacts and the need for accountability, but failed to deliver the concrete support that a small island COP should have, Clausen said.

“We welcome the focus on enhanced ambition and the inclusion of pre-2020 climate action in the design of next year’s stocktake, the Talanoa Dialogue. This will form part of Fiji’s legacy and it is imperative that the dialogue will not just be a discussion but actually lead to countries ramping up their climate targets.

“Bonn still leaves a daunting task of concluding the Paris rulebook next year. Countries need to rediscover the political courage they had in Paris to complete the rulebook on time.”

A deal to break a deadlock in Bonn over the languishing pre-2020 climate action from developed countries and to anchor it in coming climate talks must now prove pivotal in forging additional ambition.

Country and region views:

The Pacific
“The Pacific has been dealing with the devastating impacts of climate change for years so time is a luxury we do not have. While leaders talk, we face the effects. It’s time for leaders to live up to their promises,” said Pacific Island representative activist Samu Kuridrani.

United States
“We have seen the true face of America here, exposing how Trump and his regressive fossil fuel agenda are outnumbered by those who proclaim with one voice, ‘America is still in’. It’s been abundantly clear here that despite Trump, climate action continues. World leaders must now categorically reject any proposed weakening of America’s commitments and hold the US administration to account if it reneges,” said Greenpeace USA climate campaigner Naomi Ages.

Germany
“This COP saw Germany drastically lose credibility and leadership on climate action. Chancellor Merkel’s disappointing speech failed to align Germany with a coalition of progressive nations stepping away from coal, raising doubts if Germany is committed to the ambition of the Paris agreement. Only by deciding on a coal phase out will the new government be able to reach its climate targets for 2020 and 2030,” said Greenpeace Germany executive director Sweelin Heuss.

China
“The Pacific COP has been a way-station in China’s aspiration to become a climate leader. The transformation from a developing country to a responsible global power takes time and courage, but climate leadership demands urgency. In 2018, eyes will increasingly turn to China to enhance the country’s climate ambition and help conclude the Paris rulebook,” said Greenpeace China climate policy adviser Li Shuo.

Southeast Asia
“The voices from the climate frontlines have spoken in the Pacific COP. But how much have those who are historically most accountable for climate change listened? Those least responsible for climate change are suffering the worst impacts and this great injustice must be addressed. Governments and corporations must urgently change their policies and practices to avert climate-related human rights harms,” said Greenpeace Southeast Asia executive director Yeb Saño.

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‘Healers, not harmers’ – Climate Warriors present COP23 declaration

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: ‘Healers, not harmers’ – Climate Warriors present COP23 declaration

“We all stand together as one family” … Pacific Climate Warriors Declaration on Climate Change presented at COP23. Image: 350 Pacific

Climate activists from across the Pacific region have presented a declaration on climate change to key Pacific environmental leaders at COP23.

The Pacific Climate Warriors Declaration on Climate Change, part of 350’s Have Your Sei campaign, was signed by more than 23,000 people and called on world leaders to take effective action on climate change by placing the voice of the people above that of the fossil fuel industry.

350 Pacific’s Pacific Climate Warriors made the bold call in September to ensure the region’s leadership on climate change was recognised and the Pacific’s voice heard.

Similar calls were made at the talanoa gathering place in the Bonn Zone.

The Samoa Planet reports the group’s Tokelauan representative challenged the rest of the world to follow the nation’s example of the first to be powered by 100 percent renewable energy, a transition which is called for in the declaration.

“We all stand together as one family,” they said, and continued with a call to “Kick the big polluters out of climate talks,” Lani Wendt Young reports.

The call echoed a plea made by the Pacific Climate Warriors on the eve of COP23 to end the era of fossil fuels.

-Partners-

‘Healers, not harmers’
The declaration was printed on tapa cloth, with framed copies presented to key Pacific environment leaders, including Francois Martel, the Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Development Forum and the former President of Kiribati and global advocate and climate warrior, Anote Tong on Wednesday.

The presentation opened with a lotu and blessing offered by climate warrior, Reverend James, who prayed for an increased spiritual awareness of the earth and ocean.

“May we be healers, not harmers.”

Pacific leadership on climate change and its recognition called for by the Pacific Climate Warriors, has been symbolized in the Bonn Zone’s talanoa space and the renaming of the facilitative dialogue process to “talanoa dialogue”.

The Fiji Times reports the “talanoa spirit” which characterises Fiji’s presidency of COP23 has extended into open dialogue between the COP parties and non-state actors.

“This is the first open dialogue between parties and non-parties in the history of the COP process. It’s not a side event. It has been mandated by the parties and is designed to bring state actors and non-state actors together in the Bula Zone.

“I’m delighted as COP23 president that we have been able to connect in this manner. Because it goes to the heart of the grand coalition concept that Fiji has been promoting all year.

Adopting talanoa spirit
“We will not be negotiating. We will be talking to each other. And we will be listening. This is the perfect setting for adopting the talanoa spirit that is so much a part of what Fiji brings to the presidency.

“Together, we should learn how to engage all levels of government, civil society, the private sector and billions of ordinary citizens in the formation of the national plans for climate action,” Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama said.

Bainimarama also called for frank and open discussions around what was and was not working in the fight against climate change, FBC reports.

“We must also be honest about what is not working. Because the Talanoa Spirit isn’t just about being nice to everyone, although respect is essential.

“It is about contributing to a solution that requires a degree of straight talking. And whoever you represent today, I encourage you to embrace that spirit, honest, constructive dialogue for the common good,” he said.

COP23 continues until November 17.

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