Mid-COP28 negotiations update: Three point Q&A with Xavier Matsaturo of Palau

Palau's climate change negotiator and Chair of Pacific Small Island Developing States, Xavier Matsutaro. Source: SPREP

7 December 2023, Dubai UAE – After the euphoria of the opening the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP28) in Dubai, UAE, and the celebration of the historical capitalisation of the Loss and Damage Fund on the first day, progress on the key thematic areas of negotiations has somewhat been slow.
The first week of the negotiations convened for most issues in all negotiating formats as delegates tried to resolve outstanding issues. Their task is to prepare a text replete with options that will help Ministers negotiate the final COP 28 package next week.
Today, we speak with Palau’s Climate Change Mr Xavier Matsaturo about the state of play. Although Mr Matsaturo follows the Global Stocktake (GST), he shares with us a general sense of what is happening and how Pacific negotiators are feeling about the first week of the climate talks in Dubai.

Question: Alii Xavier, you and our Pacific negotiators have been working hard and late into the night in Dubai this week. Can you give us a snapshot of how things are going so far? 
Answer: I’ll very honest, it’s not good at all at this stage. We are far from where we are wanting to be. On the big picture, there’s the GST, which gives you a broader picture in terms of other areas of negotiations. There is a lot of push back, a lot of interest and everybody is throwing everything under the sun towards what they want.
We have been arguing even before that on the process. Should we start from the top going to the bottom, do we start with what is called the way forward and work backwards, should it be packages, should it sub-elements and so forth and by the time we got to the text, we’ve already been delayed by at least two days. So when we got the next iteration of the text, it became an exercise of ‘hold on there are some missing views here and we need to add on to this list.’
So what that means is that it goes back to the co-facilitators, they have to consolidate, make it coherent and from there it’s got to be digestible enough to get pumped up to the Ministers next week. It means there’s a tonne of work we have to do with very little time because of all the delays.

Question: Sounds like you’re going to have another long night tonight. But what do these delays mean for Pacific delegations?
Answer: The further it pushes back the more you scramble because you don’t have enough time to digest and understand the language and its implications and that’s an inherent risk. It also means people will be working longer hours so fatigue starts creeping in and it impedes your ability to maintain the quality of the outcome that you want.
It then becomes a bit of an exercise of who can last the longest and for small delegations like the Pacific SIDS, it becomes really difficult because there are only a few of us. When fatigue kicks in, you can still be in the room but it becomes a question of whether you can properly engage. This is a problem the bigger countries with bigger delegations don’t have because they have more manpower and have the luxury to cycle in and out.
In this space, it could be a tactical thing, it’s about staying plugged in long enough so that it can drain other members and delegates so the leverage can ultimately be on your side.

Question: When things get tough, you have to find your why and what you are here to do. What is the big picture and what do we want from this COP for our Pacific countries?
Answer: On mitigation, we are pushing the phase out of fossil fuel. We don’t want anything attached to that, inefficient subsidy, we don’t want anything inefficient, so we are pushing it to the highest possible level and that’s where we are standing at the moment. We are realty pushing and keeping countries accountable at this point. COP28 in as far as history goes is one of the most important meetings of our time and that’s because we are running out of time with the temperature limit by 2025, which is really around the corner. In terms of emissions, we cannot have any more in terms of what we are spilling out today and that’s the gist of everything we are working towards.

Source: SPREP