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Amid Sea Level Rise & Devastating Storm, Island Nations Call for “Real Climate Leadership” at COP23

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As the second week of the U.N. climate conference gets underway in Bonn, Germany, we speak with two activists about the impact of climate change on their countries, and their goals for this year’s talks. “It was devastating to see thousands of homes damaged, and about 40 people lost their lives,” says George Nacewa, Fiji islander and 350.org Pacific Climate Warrior. “This is something we’ve never experienced before.” Meanwhile, Tetet Lauron, a former member of the Philippines delegation, says negotiators must increase their sense of urgency “to avoid runaway climate change.”

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

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we are talking with Tetet Lauron, who is with IBON International. And we are now joined, as well, by George Nacewa, who is a Fiji islander and a Pacific Climate Warrior. Let’s now pivot into the issue of climate. We’ll stay with you Tetet. How does climate affect the Philippines? And what are you calling for here at the U.N. climate summit?

TETET LAURON: Well, the Philippines has always been poster child of the climate change. And as you said, especially during COPs, you know, one big typhoon hits our country, an earthquake strikes, affecting millions. So, at this COP, we’re hoping and calling on governments to be accountable, number one, to make good on the promises that they made two years ago in Paris, and, number two, because what they’ve put in as pledges in the Paris Agreement is not enough, because it’s still going to bring us anywhere between three to seven degrees warming, we’re calling on them, you know, to increase the level of ambition, know the urgency and really just try to do everything that they could to avoid runaway climate change.

AMY GOODMAN: We are also joined by George Nacewa, who is a Fiji islander. So, George, your country is actually hosting this summit. It’s called the “Island COP.” But it’s being held in Bonn because Fiji couldn’t deal with 25,000 people coming in all at once for this summit. But talk about how climate affects Fiji. And place it for us geographically.

GEORGE NACEWA: So, Fiji, impacts of climate change in the islands is such that we have sea level rise, saltwater intrusion, harsh weather patterns, flooding. But just last year, we had the worst cyclone, a Category 5 cyclone, that hit Fiji. It was devastating to see thousands of homes damaged, and about 40 people lost their lives. And this is something that we’ve never experienced before.

AMY GOODMAN: And the significance of this being an Island COP? It’s your island that’s hosting this, Fiji?

GEORGE NACEWA: Yeah. I mean, this is to show the world what true leadership is all about, you know? And we have our leaders from the islands that are pushing that affirmative action is taken and that the Paris Agreement is put into play, you know? And that—yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: What does it mean to be a Pacific Climate Warrior?

GEORGE NACEWA: It means we bring our faith, our culture, our tradition into the mix of things, you know? And to show people who we are as human beings from the islands and that we are connected to the land and to the ocean and that this is important to us.

AMY GOODMAN: And the fact that President Trump is pulling the U.S. out of the U.N. Paris climate accord, what does it mean to you?

GEORGE NACEWA: It’s frustrating to say, I’m angry, but, at the same time, I’m hopeful to see that our island leaders are taking the true leadership role that is needed.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Tetet Lauron, the fact that Trump, yes, is in your country right now, in the Philippines; you’re here in Bonn for the island summit, this Island COP. What does it mean to you that the U.S. now—what? Following Syria and, just before that, Nicaragua signing on to the Paris climate accord, that means the U.S. is alone, if it in fact is pulled out of the accord. Even with Trump’s efforts to pull it out, he actually can’t pull it out 'til 2020. I think it's a day after the next election.

TETET LAURON: Well, the U.S. has not—has never been a climate leader. So, you know, it doesn’t really matter much if they stay in or they stay out of the agreement. It’s because we haven’t seen real climate leadership. There’s still the role of the U.S. policy. And it’s not just about the environmental policy. It’s also about trade. It’s about finance. It’s about putting in place policies that extract more resources from countries like the Philippines and Fiji, and bringing in their corporations with destructive mining activities, you know, opening up our country and our people to even more damages and vulnerability.

AMY GOODMAN: And what does it mean to you when activists, George, from the United States, actually grassroots activists, governors, senators, mayors, nonprofits from all over, come as a kind of separate delegation from the Trump delegation? We have 15 seconds.

GEORGE NACEWA: I think it’s important because we don’t stand alone in this fight, you know? Even though we face the impacts of climate change back home, we know that we are in this fight with others around the world. And that’s very important, you know?

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us, and, of course, we’re going to continue to discuss this. Tetet Lauron, IBON International; George Nacewa, from Fiji, is a 350.org Pacific Climate Warrior.

When we come back, a group of U.S. lawmakers are here in Bonn staging an anti-Trump revolt by declaring “We are Still In.” That’s in the 2015 Paris climate accord. We’ll speak with Senators Markey of Massachusetts and Schatz of Hawaii. Stay with us.

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“We are Still In”: Sen. Markey & U.S. Lawmakers Stage Anti-Trump Revolt at UN Climate Talks in Bonn

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