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Vanuatu Strikes a Blow for Climate Justice
Vanuatu is a small island located in the South Pacific Ocean, inhabited by a population of approximately 300,000 people. It is one of the world’s most vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change. Over the years, the country has experienced the devastating impacts of climate change, including sea-level rise, more frequent natural disasters, ocean acidification, and higher temperatures. These impacts have affected the country’s economy, people’s livelihoods, and their overall well-being.
Despite their small size and limited resources, Vanuatu has taken significant steps to fight climate change and protect their people. In December 2020, Vanuatu became the first country to submit a new and updated national climate pledge or “Nationally Determined Contribution” (NDC) ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland.
The NDC is a commitment by each party to the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The updated commitment demonstrates Vanuatu’s readiness to take more ambitious action on climate change by increasing the size and scale of their climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.
Vanuatu’s updated NDC is a significant improvement from its previous commitments. The country now aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below its business as usual scenario by 2030. This target represents a significant increase from their previous target of 11% by 2025. The country’s new and more ambitious target aligns with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) recommendation of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Vanuatu’s updated NDC is also unique in that it includes a specific commitment on loss and damage. As a climate-vulnerable country, Vanuatu has first-hand experience with the loss and damage caused by climate change. The country’s new pledge acknowledges that developed countries must take responsibility for the climate change adaptations necessary for countries like Vanuatu to maintain their sovereignty and ensure that their populations can prosper. This commitment is a significant step forward in recognizing the disproportionate burden borne by developing countries in the face of a global crisis.
Vanuatu’s updated NDC also includes significant adaptation measures, which are necessary given the country’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The plan includes measures to improve water management, increase seawater monitoring and management, reduce the risk of coastal erosion, and strengthen the country’s disaster response capabilities.
Vanuatu’s efforts to combat and adapt to climate change are particularly impressive considering the country’s limited resources. The country’s size and geography also make it vulnerable to climate change impacts. Yet, Vanuatu has not wavered in its commitment to the Paris Agreement and is now a shining example to other vulnerable countries that meaningful climate action is possible.
Vanuatu has also been a leading voice in the international climate dialogue, particularly on the issue of loss and damage. At the UN General Assembly, Vanuatu has repeatedly called for loss and damage to be a core component of the international climate change framework. They have been particularly vocal in calling for fair and adequate financing to support vulnerable countries’ efforts to adapt and recover from climate change impacts.
Vanuatu’s new NDC demonstrates that meaningful climate action is possible, even for small and vulnerable countries. It also highlights the importance of recognizing the disproportionate burden that climate-vulnerable countries carry when it comes to climate change adaptation and mitigation. Vanuatu has shown that it is possible to take strong and ambitious climate action in the face of significant challenges. The country’s commitment to climate justice should serve as an inspiration to the world, particularly to those countries that have historically been the highest emitters of greenhouse gases, to do their part in the global efforts to combat climate change.