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Citing Its Survival, Pacific Island of Tuvalu Interrupts Copenhagen Summit to Call for Binding Climate Commitments

StoryDecember 10, 2009
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The Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu has taken a firm stand at the climate talks here in Copenhagen, citing its very survival as being at stake. Tuvalu is among the world’s most vulnerable to rising sea levels due to climate change. On Wednesday, Tuvalu tried to get the full conference to consider a legally binding new protocol that would require more aggressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and a more ambitious climate target than is being considered. [includes rush transcript]


TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go right now to the Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu, which has taken a firm stand at the climate talks here in Copenhagen, citing its very survival as being at stake. Tuvalu is among the world’s most vulnerable to rising sea levels due to climate change.

On Wednesday, Tuvalu tried to get the full conference to consider a legally binding new protocol that would require more aggressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and a more ambitious climate target than is being considered. Specifically, Tuvalu asked to amend the UN climate treaty to cap the rise in temperatures at 1.5 degrees Celsius, instead of the proposed two degrees above pre-industrial levels.

After an exchange with the Danish conference president, Connie Hedegaard, Tuvalu delegate Ian Fry called for a suspension of the conference to consider the proposal.

    IAN FRY: Thank you, Madame Chair, and thank you for your consideration of the matter. Unfortunately, we cannot accept your ruling on this matter. This issue is too important for us. We cannot accept an informal process, and therefore, if this cannot be resolved by a procedure, then we call for a suspension of the COP. Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: The suspension was granted, and while the delegates went into recess, Tuvalu supporters started a rally outside the doors of the plenary room.

    TUVALU SUPPORTERS: Treaty now! Legal treaty now! Legal treaty now! Legal treaty now! Legal treaty now! Now! Now! Now! Now! Now!

    ASHWINI PRABHA: I’m Ashwini Prabha. I’m from Fiji. I’m here to support Tuvalu and the AOSIS, who have basically demanded in the session at COP and said that they need an open session and a session where they can discuss their proposal, where they can discuss about a legally binding treaty, two protocol treaty, basically, because they believe that all the countries should be able to sign onto a treaty and the Kyoto Protocol should stay alive. And they believe that we need to look at 1.5 degrees to stay alive. And that’s why I’m here. I’m here because my people are affected by climate change. Our survival is at stake if they don’t strike a legally binding agreement in this city, in Copenhagen, this year, now.

    BEN MARGOLIS: I’m Ben Margolis. I’m from the UK. We’re here today with a whole bunch of different groups, because at the moment the climate talks are at a critical phase, and every discussion that is happening in these plenaries is crucial. And we’re following them closely.

    And what we saw this morning is that when a small island state, a state that is the most vulnerable to climate change, Tuvalu, asked for these meetings to be held in an open and transparent way, they weren’t given their wish. They were told that they were being closed out of the meeting.

    And we feel that now, more than ever, civil society needs to stand with these states who are going to be affected by climate change. And it’s amazing to see that there are hundreds of people who care about this. And everybody came out spontaneously. We’re here together in a stand with Tuvalu and the other small island vulnerable states.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Ben Margolis of the Global Campaign for Climate Action, and before that, Ashwini [Prabha], a resident of Fiji.

If you could talk about the Tuvalu presence here, the experience of this country, Kumi Naidoo?

KUMI NAIDOO: Well, for the Pacific Island states, and particularly for Tuvalu, climate change is not something that’s going happen; it’s hitting them already. Already there’s impacts of sea level rise. If nothing is done here urgently at this summit to begin to reverse the trajectory we’re on, this island state is going to be wiped off. And sadly, it looks like, you know, for some of those Pacific Island states, already some of it is lost already.

AMY GOODMAN: Can they stop the COP15 summit with the prediction that there will not be a binding treaty out of this conference?

KUMI NAIDOO: Well, you know, two years ago in Bali at this stage of the conference, the similar conference, everybody had more or less thrown in the towel, because President Bush’s delegation was blocking everything. And people persevered right until the end, and it was the small island states, in the final plenary session on the final day of the conference, that actually intervened, and actually President Bush’s people had to go and come back and actually concede, and that gave us a road back to get there.

So we are saying, as the Tck Tck Tck campaign and Greenpeace, that it’s not over until it’s over. And, in fact, you know the phrase when you say, “It ain’t over until the fat lady sings”? We are saying it ain’t over ’til the thin man from the United States sings — President Obama — because he has the power to make the difference here. And so, basically the real issue here is about the legally binding, because basically all these small developing countries and citizens across the world know from UN summits that if you don’t get a binding treaty, no implementation takes place. And this is one summit we have to have a real road map that has specific benchmarks and targets and that is binding, because time is running out very, very fast for the planet.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much, Kumi Naidoo, for joining us, executive director of Greenpeace International.

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