On Thursday, November 22nd, the Marshall Islands and the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), a group of 48 frontline nations tackling climate change, hosted the first intergovernmental summit to be held entirely online. The focus of the summit was the need to accelerate global action to tackle the climate crisis and to mark the occasion, world leaders issued the Jumemmej Declaration calling for enhanced national and global climate action.
The summit was unique in that all participants engaged without travelling to a conference venue. Chairing the Virtual Summit of more than 40 government leaders, President Hilda C. Heine of the Marshall Islands said: “Today we make history together. We are showing that more can be done with tools and means on hand than we might think. We are demonstrating that we can succeed in breaking from the past to face a new future.”
The Summit lasted 24 hours and featured interactive debates and live statements from leaders around the world. In her intervention at the summit, Mary Robinson praised the CVF’s leadership on climate justice and cautioned that the pace and scale of climate action necessary to achieve the 1.5oC target laid out by the Paris Agreement increases the risk of human rights being overlooked as countries race to reduce emissions. “I have proposed the creation of a human rights focal point in the UNFCCC Secretariat so that it has the expertise needed to strengthen the capacity of Parties to incorporate human rights into climate action,” she said.
Also participating in the Virtual Summit was, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet who said that “states must strengthen their mitigation commitments and nationally determined contributions, this is a human rights obligation.”
Through the Summit’s “Jumemmej Declaration”, the Forum’s Leaders committed to strengthening their national climate efforts by 2020 in order to pressure World Governments to act. “Jumemmej” is a Marshallese word of seafaring origin calling for vigilance to keep watch against threats. The declaration calls for increased national ambition in order to keep the 1.5°C warming limit within reach and to safeguard the rights of those most vulnerable to climate change.
The Summit Communique, released by participating world leaders, said called on the world to act now “in the interests of all peoples and to save future generations, to strengthen universal peace by working to secure climate justice, and in doing so promote the upholding of fundamental human rights, the preservation of the Earth, social progress, and better standards of life in larger freedom”.
The Communique recognised the unique value of the Virtual Summit, saying it represented the leaders determination to reduce emissions through the creative application of readily available means and so increase transparency and inclusivity while conserving scare resources.