Wednesday 16 December 2009, COPENHAGEN -- Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa L. S. Malielegaoi gives the national statement during the COP15 High Level plenary.
Ladies and gentlemen,
"Survival is not negotiable", "No island left behind", "Respect our right to survive", and "Seal a Deal for a new climate agreement" are the calls made repeatedly over the past weeks and here in Copenhagen.
For Samoa, the planet is our common heritage, the earth our birthright and our home. Changes to the climate should never divide us, instead they should unite us. We share the same environment and we will be affected by the impacts of climate change irrespective or whether we contribute d or not to its causes and whether we believe in the phenomenon or are denial of its reality.
Climate change is a global menace. Its adverse effects, in human and financial costs will continue to be borne disproportionately by vulnerable small island countries.
Yet it is not their fault that their islands are small, low lying and resources-constrained.
As a global community, our interests, though divergent and many, are inextricably linked. Our fates moreover are deeply intertwined. No nation however large or small, rich or poor, a major emitter of greenhouse gases or not will be spared from the impact of climate change. Importantly, no one nation alone can tackle climate change on its own.
That is why we have come to Copenhagen so that we can be part of the solution not an obstacle to consensus building. We will come out of this process the biggest losers if no comprehensive and substantive deal is brokered and delivered before we depart Copenhagen. While we try to negotiate for the ideal agreement, let's not lose sight of the reality that the impacts of climate change are getting worse by the day.
It is a grave mistake and disservice to our peoples, if this great gathering of world leaders goes away from Copenhagen with nothing to show.
Climate change is an issue of survival for Samoa and other low-lying islands - hence our support for a legally binding instrument to reflect the science under the two tracks with an effective and equitable compliance regime. This is not a political slogan to win over support or a campaign gimmick to enlist sympathy.
Climate change is real. It has already happened and continues to happen in our Pacific region. We see and experience it everyday. Our coastlines have been eroded, our corals bleached, and salt water intrusion is affecting fresh water resources and crop cultivation along coastal areas. We have been forced to relocate populations and necessary infrastructure to higher grounds at very high costs, both financially and socially. Simply put, it is no longer a question of when, but rather the severity of the magnitude and frequency of climate change impacts, and their enormous cost to society.
Samoa has experienced first hand what natural catastrophes and the impact of climate change are capable of.
From devastating cyclones since the early 1990s, strong winds and heavy flooding yearly, to the deadly tsunami that struck Samoa two months ago, causing massive destruction and the loss of many lives.
These disasters also resulted in major setbacks in the development progress of our country, and incurred heavy unanticipated financial commitments, but also accelerated our adaptation responses to the adverse impacts of climate change.
I highlight this to underscore both the magnitude and cost of climate change and the fad that small island states like Samoa are right up there with the rest doing our share, often at great expenses, to mitigate emissions and adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change with limited resources.
On our own, as an individual country, we cannot make much of an impact.
The magnitude of the climate change challenge requires a "total solution" possible only with the world working together.
To ensure that small island developing states continue to undertake adaptation and mitigation activities, new and grant-based resources should be made available immediately, today!! Such resources should be fast-tracked through simplified procedures and expedited access to dedicated funding earmarked for Pacific Small Island developing states which, after all have contributed the least to climate change but face extreme exposure and vulnerability to its impacts.
A comprehensive solution requires a new brand of leadership, one with vision and actions that transcend the narrow pursuit of self interest and places the good of mankind ahead of ones own domestic agenda. A new brand of leadership that places a premium on equity and survivability of Small Island states ahead of political and economic expediencies.
A brand of leadership with the strength of conviction to lead by doing, because it is morally correct and proper to do so, not because it is conditional on actions by others. Otherwise, we are effectively assigning those small islands least responsible for the causes of climate change and without the means to mitigate and adapt to its impacts to an uncertain and unsustainable future.
In retrospect the ineffective mitigation reduction actions then and now by
nations in leadership positions, the posturing and rhetoric in negotiations that are short on sincere intentions and tangible solutions, the preoccupation of some in the blame and shame game to shift responsibilities and to avoid assuming greater role in solving the problem at hand, have all contributed to the atmosphere of mistrust and suspicion that at times have taken a toll on those islands with everything to lose and who have been negotiating from the outset in good faith.
Let Copenhagen be the city where we agree to change the climate of our dealings with each other. Let us trust each other and build bridges to reach out to all parties to seek understanding and to make accommodations. We must not allow ourselves to leave Copenhagen without sealing a deal for a new legally binding climate change agreement for our present world and for the future of our children.