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“We Cannot Afford to Be Held Hostage…By Political Backwardness” Tuvalu Delegate Makes Impassioned “Life or Death” Plea for Action on Climate Change

Web ExclusiveDecember 09, 2010
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Among the countries most affected by climate change are small island states. Rising sea levels from global warming threaten their very existence. As the high-level talks opened here in Cancún, one of the more impassioned speeches came from the head of the Tuvalu delegation. Tuvalu is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia.

This is Enele Sopoaga, Tuvalu’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, speaking at the main U.N. plenary.

Click Here for Our Full Cancún Climate Summit Coverage
Click Here for Our Full Climate Change Coverage

ENELE SOPOAGA: Your Excellency, Mr. Vice President, on behalf of Her Excellency, Madam President of COP16, distinguished heads of governments and ministers, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, I have the honor to speak on behalf of my delegation, the government and people of Tuvalu. First of all, I wish to thank the government and people of Mexico for the hospitality and excellent arrangements for this meeting. The warm waters of the Caribbean remind me very much of home.

Addressing climate change calls for urgent global actions by all countries. The whole world, its peoples, and all relevant stakeholders, including development partners, must share the vision, the ambitious vision, and commitment to act diligently on solutions. Recognizing Taiwan’s economic and technological capacity, and particularly its huge contribution to international cooperation on human development in many parts of the world, it is the view of my delegation that Taiwan should be considered urgently for inclusion and participation in the UNFCCC process.

Mr. President, last year we went to Copenhagen with high expectations that the international community would take decisive steps to address one of, if not the most, serious threats to humanity: climate change. We were extremely disappointed with the outcome of Copenhagen. It is a tragedy to think that over 110 heads of state could not unite to tackle climate change in a meaningful way. In Copenhagen, we rejected the Copenhagen Accord, and we continue to do so. In our view, it is a hollow agreement to meet short-term political needs. Certainly it is a document for the demise of nations like mine.

Tuvalu was keen to see a meaningful outcome in Copenhagen that — though small and limited in our capacity as the delegation as we are, but as a contribution, we drafted our own version of a new protocol on climate change. Tragically, however, we were never able to have this proposal discussed.

This year, we have come to Mexico with renewed expectations that the international community will not repeat Copenhagen. We must unite in strong solidarity and be decisive on meaningful steps to address climate change here.

Tuvalu seeks a clear mandate to continue the Kyoto Protocol and a new mandate to create a legally binding agreement to implement the Bali Action Plan. We must agree to an immediate start of the second commitment period of Kyoto Protocol. The two-track processes must result in two legally binding agreements. It is fundamental that the international community agrees to a comprehensive approach to addressing climate change. And this can only be done by revitalizing the Kyoto Protocol and creating a new protocol for those countries not included in the Kyoto.

Mr. President, Tuvalu’s call for urgent, decisive and comprehensive actions on climate change is not self-serving. Undoubtedly, we are the most vulnerable country to the impacts of climate change. The greatest width of land on Funafuti, our capital island, is 600 meters. The highest point is only four meters. When a cyclone hits, there are no mountains to climb, no inland to run to. Of course, we have coconut trees. We are extremely exposed to ravages of climate change.

We see that many other countries are claiming that they are also the most vulnerable. Of course, while clearly acknowledging that all countries are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, a small island, coral atoll nation like Tuvalu faces enormous threats that could threaten the entire future of our nation. This was resoundingly echoed in the UNFCCC executive secretary’s statement to this house yesterday. Is there any other country able to make this tragic claim? I think not.

Clearly, addressing climate change, especially providing adaptation funding and support, is fundamental to the survival of island nations like Tuvalu. It is certainly a necessity, a security necessity, for Tuvalu.

As an LDC, moreover, the entire economy of our nation is threatened by severe weather events. Yet we have no means to rebuild our economy after such events. We desperately need an international mechanism to address loss and damage to create the necessary financial arrangement to ensure our future.

We have already heard in this very hall references to the Gap Report recently released by UNEP, identifying actions required to bridge the gap between the totally inadequate emission reduction pledges made in Copenhagen and the actions needed to ensure global temperature does not exceed 1.5 degrees Centigrade above pre-industrial levels. My delegation strongly urges parties to seriously take into account the Gap Report findings and its recommendations in their negotiations. The gaps identified, if not urgently filled, could well lead to my nation, Tuvalu, and many like us to disappear.

Mr. President, I must emphasize the importance of urgency. We cannot continue to stall our discussions. We cannot afford to have endless meetings and endless reasons for not doing anything. Most importantly, we cannot afford to be held hostage by countries finger-pointing on climate change, particularly those who cause climate change. And we cannot afford to be held hostage by the political backwardness of one developed country. This is “life and death” survival issue for Tuvalu. It is now time to act, time to agree, time to move forward, time to save Tuvalu and the world. Thank you, Mr. President.

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