Not only must steps be taken to meet pledges, but the targets themselves must be raised.
Climate change has ravaged Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in 2017. The prime minister from one of them - Fiji - presides over COP23, this year's UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Bonn, Germany. But if this means we are celebrating the first ‘Island COP', given the previous year, it is a muted yet profound observance.
A relentless battering ram of hurricanes struck the Caribbean in recent months. Hyperactive, Category 5, highest total accumulated cyclone energy: these labels mean little to those uninitiated in climate science. Yet the destruction caused - it was the costliest cyclone season on record and led to over 400 fatalities - is understandable to all.
Indeed, that makes it apt a leader of a nation facing similar challenges should be president of the conference. At the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) - of which Fiji is a member - we have sought recognition for states that are on the frontline of climate change. We are often exposed to the acute end of global warming, yet have the least capacity to cope with its effects.
Framework and solutions
As the Chair of that organisation - and in my capacity as the Minister of Environment of the Maldives - I call on our developed international partners to own their responsibility. The affluence of the modern world was built on polluting foundations.
Rich nations - those who have benefitted from vast historical Green House Gas (GHG) emissions - are therefore indebted to humanity's future. And they must honour that obligation. For if they do not, nations like mine will suffer through no fault of our own.
Progress has been made. The landmark 2015 Paris Agreement acknowledged that GHG reductions should be should be tied to historical emissions. Now, in Bonn, we must figure out how exactly each nation implements their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), as well mechanisms to monitor the level of reductions. The framework and solutions are known; we now just need action.
Vulnerability with resilience
This word has become so overused in climate circles as to become trite. But there is no way around it. Time is against us. The latest UNEP Gap report states it is not too late to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Yet it makes for uncomfortable reading. It identifies an "urgent need for accelerated short-term action and enhanced longer-term national ambition". Quibbling over important issues such as financing should therefore be avoided. We are talking about lives, not bottom lines.
The Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) for loss and damage is such an issue. It has failed to provide sufficient financing, as set out in its mandate, for nations that face unique challenges arising from climate change - like SIDS.
The unprecedented year of weather - Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria; wildfires in the US and Europe; mass flooding in South Asia and Nigeria; and an unyielding drought in East Africa - will, I hope, give the issue renewed urgency. The mechanism has been a severe disappointment to those that need to replace vulnerability with resilience.
However, in place of WIM, some states have proposed diluted insurance schemes. But this protection would be insufficient. Abrupt catastrophes would be covered. Gradual and inevitable problems - like rising sea levels - would not. And with the effects of climate change becoming sharper, premiums will only increase for those with little means to pay.
Alongside a properly functioning WIM, instruments must be created to incentivise private financial flows towards nations vulnerable to climate change. Together, nations must form structures that facilitate the good work of non-state actors. Climate change is a problem that belongs to all of us, not just political officials. This must be recognised at COP23.
However, all of this will be in vain unless G20 nations do not fundamentally reduce their emissions. Collectively, they account for close to three-quarters of global emissions. Yet on average, they are set to miss their targets on current trajectories. If they do not start to act in line with their commitments, it will seriously hamper global efforts to save our planet. The rest of the world simply cannot afford such procrastination.
A joyous occasion
And not only must steps be taken to meet pledges, but the targets themselves must be raised. We need more ambition. The world's current pledges for GHG cuts is just a third of that needed to keep world temperatures below a 2 °C above pre-industrial levels. If we stay at current levels, the opportunity to keep temperatures below the optimal 1.5 °C - as stated in the Paris Agreement - will also rapidly close.
Of course, when spelt out like this, it sounds a lot. But we are talking about nothing less than the future of the planet. With every day that passes, these issues take on a deeper urgency. This leaves little room for compromise. But with political resolve, I am confident we will make progress on all these areas at COP23. And when we do, then we will have a joyous occasion for celebration.
Thoriq Ibrahim is the Maldives Minister of Environment and Energy & Chair of Alliance of Small Island States.