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Tuvalu Minister Urges World Leaders to Save Pacific Nations from Rising Seas

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One of the most impassioned speeches at the United Nations Climate Change Conference was given today by Apisai Ielemia, the minister of foreign affairs, trade, tourism, environment and labor for the Pacific island state of Tuvalu. Ielemia’s country is among a number of island nations threatened by the rising seas caused by global warming. “It is vitally important that the international community take immediate and decisive action to address climate change now, not tomorrow, not in 2015, and definitely not in 2020,” Ielemia says. “Urgency must be the theme of this conference. We have no time to wait, and we are only a few inches from the point of no return.” [includes rush transcript]

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

AMY GOODMAN: We turn right now to one of the most impassioned speeches at the U.N. Climate Change Conference today, given just hours ago by the Tuvalu politician Apisai Ielemia. He serves as minister of foreign affairs, trade, tourism, environment and labor for the Pacific island state.

APISAI IELEMIA: Madam President, small island nations, particularly low-lying atolls like Tuvalu who are surrounded by sea, have always had great hope that the ocean brings prosperity and life. Soon this will no longer be the case. The ocean is now bringing destruction and is threatening our very existence. Sea-level rise could engulf our nation, our entire nation, and therefore erase our rights as a nation and as a sovereign state.

But sea-level rise is not only our concern. Just before I left to come to this conference, my government had declared a state of emergency, because we are suffering the worst drought in recorded history. We got to the stage where we had to import fresh water and to bring in emergency desalination plants. This was a clear warning that we are already suffering from the adverse impacts of climate change.

Madam President, it is vitally important that the international community take immediate and decisive action to address climate change now, not tomorrow, not in 2015, and definitely not in 2020. Urgency must be the theme of this conference. We have no time to wait, and we are only a few inches from the point of no return.

AMY GOODMAN: Tuvalu’s minister of foreign affairs, Apisai Ielemia. He serves as minister of foreign affairs, trade, tourism, environment and labor for the Pacific island nation. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report, as we broadcast live from the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Durban, South Africa. Back in a minute.

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