Online climate meet offers talkfest without the gas

The low-lying Marshall Islands will drown beneath rising seas if global warming continues unabated. Picture: AFP
The low-lying Marshall Islands will drown beneath rising seas if global warming continues unabated. Picture: AFP

AFP

World leaders will participate in an innovative climate change summit on Thursday that will take place entirely online so it is carbon neutral.
The eco-friendly event stands in stark contrast to many other international political summits, which involve thousands of delegates jetting across the world to a venue where they stay in air-conditioned comfort.

The Virtual Climate Summit is the brainchild of Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine, whose low-lying Pacific island nation will drown beneath rising seas if global warming continues unabated.

Heine said the event — with participants including French President Emmanuel Macron, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — will be the first global political meeting to be held online.

It will consist of a rolling, 24-hour livestream that will begin in the Marshalls’ capital Majuro, then include addresses from leaders and panel discussions before delivering a declaration.

Heine said the cutting-edge setup was designed to show that even small nations such as the Marshalls could make a big difference on the world stage using creative, climate-friendly solutions.

“If we can act, so can any nation,” she said in a statement ahead of the summit, which is being held by the 48-nation Climate Vulnerable Forum, headed by Heine.

The virtual summit’s main aim is to encourage the international community to keep global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

A UN report warned last month that threshold could be reached as early as 2030 unless there was unprecedented global action to rein in emissions.

The latest round of UN climate talks, COP24, will open in the southern Polish city of Katowice on December 2 with the aim of reinvigorating the Paris agreement reached three years ago.

Heine said the virtual summit was a chance for those on the front line of climate change to make their voices heard.

“We don’t stand alone, people everywhere have awoken to climate perils,” she said. “Everyone’s way of life is under threat.”

By contrast, organisers of the UN’s COP21 climate talks in Paris in 2015 estimated it generated 43,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, although much of this was later offset through carbon-credit schemes.

The summit can be viewed at www.virtualclimatesummit.org from 8:00 am Thursday Marshall Islands time (2000 GMT Wednesday).

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