Thursday, 17 December 2009

Kiribati@COP15: On the frontline of climate change catastrophe

Statement by H.E President Anote Tong, of Kiribati

Mr. President
Distinguished delegates
Representatives of Civil Society Groups and
Fellow Citizens of this Planet

Our gathering here is indeed an unprecedented historic event. Never before have so many world leaders been mobilized into action to deal with what has become the most significant challenge facing humanity.

Two years ago the Bali Action Plan began the process of formulating a successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol, in response to the damning report of the IPCC on the state of our planet. Our negotiators have worked extremely hard and tirelessly and we must pay tribute to them for their perseverance over the years. However, it remains true that as of this morning several issues remain unresolved and the likelihood of any agreement seems remote.

Mr President,
We are aware that you, together with Friends of the Chair, the Secretary General and several Leaders have worked extremely hard in the corridors and behind closed doors to ensure that an outcome is reached here in Copenhagen. I believe that most, if not all of us, have come to this event with the expectation that we will return with an agreement in the bag – an agreement that is binding; an agreement that unequivocally guarantees the futures of our children and their children.

Mr President,
We, from the low lying small island states who represent the most vulnerable, have been calling for world attention to focus on this disaster for many years. However, it was only through recent developments including the findings of the latest Assessment Report from the IPCC, the initiatives of decisive world leaders such as Mr Gore, and timely interventions by the UN Secretary General earlier this year, which have put in perspective the true nature of the threat facing our planet and all who live on it. During the High-Level Climate Change Summit in New York in September, I was most encouraged by what I saw as an acknowledgement by world Leaders of the reality and the full implications of the problem facing us. However, I am somewhat sobered by the apparent lack of consensus here at Copenhagen, in particular by some of the more disappointing

Statements made during this Conference. In spite of that, we must remain optimistic that a positive outcome will be reached here in Copenhagen. The future of our people and indeed the rest of humanity will be determined by our action over the next few days. We have not come here as observers to see what happens. And I hope we have not come all this way only to see the adoption of future plan of action which will result in the demise of our people. It is my sincere hope that we have come here as Leaders to provide the leadership needed to change the course of climate change; to make decisions that will guarantee the survival of the most vulnerable.

Mr. President,
The science on climate change is very clear. The severity and the urgency of the threats posed by climate change may not be the same for each of the countries represented here, but the direction is unquestionably the same. Time is running out for some of us, so it is imperative that we act now. If we cannot achieve our objective of a legally-binding agreement this week, then we must at least have an accord that mandates the conclusion of such an agreement by no later than the middle of next year, and that incorporates the key components thereof. Where there are gaps in the numbers put forward by our negotiators, let the science and our collective conscience be our guide on what future course of action to take. We ask that clear commitments be made on mitigation and adaptation programs, in particular the funding components. We need fast track financing to address the more urgent adaptation needs of the most vulnerable. Much detail needs to be filled in, but let that not stand in the way of reaching agreement in principle that will be meaningful and will help restore confidence to those who look to us for leadership.
Mr. President,
Trust and sincerity are indispensable factors in this process – the absence of which may have been major contributing factors to the lack of progress in these negotiations. It is also important that the process be an inclusive one – one that ensures the involvement of all countries, including Taiwan, who have the capacity to make significant contributions to addressing the problem. We acknowledge that the positions put forward represent the best deals for different groupings, interests and countries. But the issues on the agenda are much too important to the future of humanity to allow our differences to dominate the outcome.

Mr. President,
As a Leader of a country on the very frontline of this climate change catastrophe, I wish, on behalf of the people I represent, to thank you and all who have contributed to what I desperately hope will be a positive outcome from this conference. I also take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to those members of Civil Society, religious organizations, youth and all who have demonstrated that they care, and who remain supportive at this critical moment.

Thank you.

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