Thursday 9 December 2010

Statements made during the High Level Segment of the COP 16: Samoa

H.E Mr Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Maliegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa

Madam President,

The Government and people of Mexico have invested much to ensure that the Cancun conference is a success. And they, like our small island developing states, have every right to be disappointed if Cancun becomes yet another missed-opportunity. This is unacceptable and we must not allow this to happen.

While negotiators are trying to win every conceivable concession from their counterparts before anyone can agree to act, let us not lose sight of the truth. Climate change does not need a negotiated instrument or permission to cause indiscriminate destruction and havoc to our islands whenever it feels like it. Yet in doing so, it unceremoniously robs some of people of their homelands, identities, their loved ones and a hopeful future.

Madam President,
Climate change is the world’s most urgent problem and the greatest moral challenge of our time. That is the indisputable truth.  Known crisis of global dimensions pale in comparison to what climate change poses to our world as a whole and to the future security of some of our low-lying islands as sovereign states. To address this effectively and decisively requires visionary leadership that rise beyond the dictates of vested national interests and political tenures and view the world as a single constituency where everyone must work together within the limits of their capacity and capability to be part of the total solution. We have been working towards a global solution and promised to negotiate in good faith, yet we have focused more on what divides us, not on what binds us. Our differences are highlighted and given prominence, not what we have in common. Entrenched positions that do not reflect today’s realties are often resorted to as a guise to frustrate and stall any meaningful progress.

While no country is untouched from the reach of climate change, small island developing states, in particular, are acutely vulnerable and lack the necessary capacity and resilience to absorb and quickly adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change. No country should therefore stay detached and unconcerned to the plight of the majority. All countries must work together with a sense of urgency and commitment to address climate change, today, not tomorrow. It should not just be the science that recommends what we should do, but also our conscience.

Madam President,

Samoa knows from bitter personal experiences just how unsettling the negative impacts of climate change can be on our economy and the fabric of our society. This is why climate change has become a national priority for my government. It compels us to negotiate under the aegis of the UNFCCC and to participate at the highest level possible to underscore our commitment to play our part in tackling this problem.

But Cancun must deliver. It should lay the foundation for the realization of the Bali Action Plan. Our timelines are slipping by fast and we are playing catch-up. Yet each day lost to indecisiveness and wrangling on petty points, only intensifies the challenges we face. Failure to agree on a package of balanced decisions is not an option, or we risk accelerating the erosion of confidence in the legitimacy of the UNFCC as the only forum for solving the climate problems, and undermining the centrality of the multilateral process.

Hopefully this is not the ultimate goal of some parties. Much is at stake for the interests of a few to triumph over the wishes of the majority of mankind. But in any negotiations, there comes a time when we need to reach accommodation and compromises in the true spirit of give and take.

Madam President,

Adaptation will remain Samoa’s priority for future climate funding assistance. While our needs continue to benefit from resources made available from our traditional development partners, additional funding resources beyond what is currently available is required for us to adapt effectively, and in a sustainable manner.

This is why a decision to establish a new Climate Fund with a dedicated window for Adaptation must be part of the Cancun package. SIDS challenges and priorities are not identical to those of other negotiating groups both in focus, relative sizes and magnitude. It is critically important that SIDS has a voice in the transitional group to set up the Climate Fund, and in its Governing Board once its final architecture is in place.

Doing it right from the start during the conceptualization phase of the Fund, and guiding its work from within the new entity when it becomes operational, are lessons SIDS have learned from past experience with similar institutions where they had minimal participation at the early, yet critical stage.

No matter the size of a new Fund, the inherent vulnerabilities of small island developing states will prevent them from benefiting optimally from such a fund. Unless tailored modalities of access and delivery, commensurate with SIDS relatively small sizes and capacity constraints, including absorptive capacity are acknowledged and provided for in the proposed fund. Key to SIDS utilizing these resources is the ability to effectively access and manage them. In the absence of such modalities, any climate funding, old or new will be a dis-incentive and not a solution to the adaptation needs of the very group of vulnerable countries the fund was meant to address in the first place.

On the existing financial mechanism, Samoa is pleased with recent decisions by the Council of the Global Environment Facility. One relates to individual country allocations, the first for most Pacific countries, and the second is the proposed pilot on direct access by accredited National Implementing agencies to GEF resources. Samoa encourages the inclusion of regional intergovernmental entities, like SPREP, so that Pacific island states can also benefit from this pilot initiative.

Madam President,

Pacific island states continue to lack reliable climate information data essential to assist decision makers develop adaptation and mitigation strategies in response to climate change. This will remain a challenge for some time – hence why partnerships with member states and intergovernmental institutions to bridge some of the information gaps, become all the more important. Samoa is privileged to represent the Pacific on the World Meteorological Organization High Level Task Force assigned to develop a Global Framework for Climate Services. We hope that further development and operational implementation of such a useful framework will receive the necessary support for its continuation.

Madam President,

Let me conclude with a plea to all the Parties under the Convention, big or small, developed or developing, emitter or not.

All countries capable of taking mitigation actions are encouraged to do so within the confines of their respective capabilities and capacities. Samoa is no exception. In the spirit of global collaborative effort, we have on our own choice pledged to take action so that we will be carbon-neutral by 2020. This is no mean task and it’s not going to be easy. But we are determined to walk the talk and make a modest contribution, as everyone’s effort counts.

Collectively, we have the power to lead in transforming our economies into sustainable and responsible drivers of global development and economic growth. Deferring innovative action and firm commitments to some future date, while continuing with business as usual is costly and unsustainable in the long run. It only hastens the pace of climate warming affecting the stability, health and continued existence of this planet. Individually and jointly we must make tough and bold decisions to ensure that we cannot continue to develop in a manner that transfers to future generations a debt they cannot pay and did not ask to inherit.

Thank you.

Statements made during the High Level Segment of the COP 16: Kiribati

H.E Mr Anote Tong, President of the Republic of Kiribati

Madame President, Excellencies, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen

At the outset, allow me to thank our gracious host President Filipe Calderon, your Government and the people of Mexico, for hosting this milestone Conference at this critical time for all our peoples. I also want to congratulate you on your election as President of this, the 16th Conference of the Parties and the 6th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol,

Madame President

Last year, along with many other leaders, I went to Copenhagen full of expectations for an outcome which would give hope to our people against the bleak predictions of the 4th AR of the IPCC on Climate Change impacts. Today we have come to Cancun, having learnt to be a lot less optimistic but, hopeful that we come armed with the Copenhagen Accord.

An agreement which Kiribati did not sign in Copenhagen because it fell well short of the conditions needed to ensure the future survival of our people. We did however subsequently associate ourselves with it after being led – or misled – to believe that doing so would trigger the flow of funds, that would be new and additional, needed for urgent adaptation measures. One year has passed since and the generous pledges made then have since remained unavailable to most of us, with yet, still an unbalanced treatment of adaptation and mitigation in spite of our increasingly desperate situation.

Madame President

The projections coming forward from the scientific community does not only confirm that climate change is happening now but further projects, that earlier scenarios of the severe adverse impacts of climate change in particular sea level rise may well have been too conservative. Our experience and those of other low-lying island countries in the Western Pacific certainly indicates that something is seriously wrong when rows of trees and coastlines are progressively being washed away with time. Since I last spoke at the COP15 in Copenhagen one year ago our communities have suffered considerably more damage. The impacts of unusually severe storms and weather related disasters being experienced even today in different regions of the planet clearly indicate the severity and widespread nature of the problem.

Madame President

It is important to note that impacts of climate change may be categorised differently as significant or urgent for different countries. For the most vulnerable countries on the frontline, severe adversities are already being experienced as I have often said in my earlier statements – these include severe erosion, loss of homes and infrastructure, contamination of water supplies and destruction of food crops, impacts which, can ultimately lead to the demise of island states like Kiribati.

The need for urgency is however, not being reflected in the slow pace of negotiations, which, have not made real progress since Copenhagen. I do not doubt that much work and resources have been directed to the process, the fruits of which, I hope, will lead to concrete decisions made here in Cancun that will ultimately lead to a legally binding agreement one year from now in Durban.

We should all be aware that the longer we delay in reaching agreement the greater the vulnerability of those on the frontlines of climate change.

Madame President

I, as other representatives of most vulnerable countries that have spoken before me, are disappointed and deeply concerned, that as an international community we continue to focus on negotiating a detailed and comprehensive arrangement which would appease the views of the different groups involved in the process. We all know that such an approach, whilst the most ideal, would probably take the next few years, if not decades, to conclude.

For the most vulnerable among us, time is running out. We demand that attention be centred on the needs of those most vulnerable

As part of Kiribati’s effort and attempt to forge consensus on the way forward, to reach agreement on those elements within the current negotiation text to form part of the package that can come out of Cancun, my Government hosted an international conference on climate change – the Tarawa Climate Change Conference – last month, the outcome of which is freely available to those interested.

Madame President

The wide and inclusive participation and opportunity to speak in the Tarawa Climate Change Conference was not an accident. It was deliberately designed to be inclusive as we strongly believe that such dialogue must necessarily involve those on different sides of the climate change debate. It should include all nations, whether developed or developing, a high country or a low country, a rich country or a poor country, a country with billions of people or a country with thousands of people as we all share the same planet.

The dialogue should also include representations and the voice of civil society, churches, women’s and more importantly youth groups whose future we are talking about.

We therefore urge that the UNFCCC adopts this inclusive approach and to include Taiwan in this crucial dialogue on saving our planet. It is just as much their home as it is ours and they too have a responsibility to contribute to this global dialogue and action.

Madame President

As clearly articulated in the Ambo declaration, the urgency of the issue; in light of the special circumstances and the particular vulnerability of countries on the frontline of climate change; requires that the package is translated into action in the immediate term in order to ensure the long term viability of those most vulnerable and on the frontline.

We as members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum representing those most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change convened the Tarawa Conference on Climate Change to send a strong signal to the rest of the international community of the urgency our need to respond now and to make decisive commitments now so that any response to the climate change calamity would not be too late for us.

Madame President As an international community we cannot continue with business as usual, we must work together to respond and act with responsibility; we must listen, take heed of what is happening in these most vulnerable states in the frontline and act accordingly, act with urgency...what is happening in these frontline States concerns all of us... it must be taken as an early warning to the international community and a precursor for what could ultimately be the fate of humanity if further action is delayed. The whole world and in particular the most vulnerable states in the frontline of the climate crisis are looking to Cancun to provide the global leadership needed for urgent action to ensure the survival of humanity – this is a struggle for humanity

Madame President

We are optimistic that agreement can be reached here at Cancun on urgent assistance to the most vulnerable States in the frontline of the climate change crisis. We call on this Conference for decisions on an “urgent package” for concrete and immediate implementation of action, consistent with the principles and provisions of the Convention, to assist those in most vulnerable States on the frontline to respond to the challenges posed by the climate change crisis;

Madam President

We must go beyond just recognising the special needs of the most vulnerable States in the frontline of the climate crisis. We must take the responsibility to move beyond the recognition of the special need for urgent action. We must make decisions now that spell out what these urgent actions are.

Madam President

We would all like to go away from this conference with the peace of mind knowing that something has been achieved here in Cancun. I would like to return to the people, in particular the young people in my country with some assurance that as leaders we have agreed here in Cancun on measures to guarantee their future. A commitment to mobilize adaptation funds such as those pledged at Copenhagen which are accessible for the special needs of small and most vulnerable island states.

Mr/Madam Chair

I thank you and I share with you and all delegates to this conference our traditional Kiribati blessings of Te Mauri (health) Te Raoi (peace) ao Te Tabomoa (prosperity) as we deliberate on this greatest responsibility facing our shared home and planet.

Pacific leaders not giving up on climate pact

View the webcast of the full Pacific Leaders Press Conference above

By Stanley Simpson, Climate Pasifika Media

8 December Cancun, Mexico - leaders today pledged to strongly continue efforts for a new UN framework agreement on climate change – although there is growing acceptance that countries may not come away from Cancun, Mexico with a legally binding agreement.

The leaders of four Pacific island nations held a joint press conference in Cancun to reiterate the urgency for an agreement - and the need for effective mitigation and adaptation facilities that will help them address climate change issues they are already grappling with.

Present were Nauru president Marcus Stephens, Kiribati President Anote Tong, Samoa prime minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and Federated States of Micronesia vice president Alik Alik.

Nauru’s president Stephen noted that Pacific island countries had gone to Copenhagen last year with big expectations but that climate change conference was a big failure and a big let down.

“However we will continue to attend these meetings – even though there has been some level of downgrading,” he said.

Kiribati president Tong also noted that most Pacific countries did not sign the Copenhagen Accord as it fell short of the minimum requirements they were calling for – however subsequently associated themselves with the accord on the premise that it would trigger the flow of funds toward adaptation.

“Until now that has not happened, despite the very generous pledges that had been made in Copenhagen and since. That has been one of the biggest disappointments.”

Tong said Pacific countries needed the funds now as climate change was not an issue for the future, but an issue they were facing now.

“We are witnessing our homes being washed away, our coastlines eroded, and heavy damage to properties and livelihood,” he said.

He adds there does not seem to be any international will for an agreement, and that is the challenge small island states are grappling with.

“We continue to believe there is an opportunity for an agreement but are coming to accept that perhaps we may not come away from Cancun with a legally binding agreement.”

“However we want to make it very clear that there are important and very urgent issues we can agree on such as the adaptation fund,” Tong said.

Samoan prime minister Tuilaepa Malielegaoi urged world leaders to look more at the implementation phase – and not spend too much time talking while islands were being washed away.

Vice president Alik of FSM also pointed out that climate change issues were at a crisis stage for many small island states – and action was needed now with adequate resources needed quickly for adaptation and mitigation.

Leader’s dialogue hears first hand experiences of climate change, agrees to take action

“In Palau, the tide comes to the homes covering the floor and people wade to the road. When it first happened, we thought it was temporary but it has now become a permanent thing that we witness almost every day", said President Toribiong of Palau

By Makereta Komai, Climate Pasifika Media in Cancun, Mexico

09 DECEMBER 2010 CANCUN --- The Pacific took centre stage again here in Cancun at the Heads of State Dialogue with the reiteration of the need for urgent action if the small islands in the Pacific and its habitants are to survive the wrath of climate change.

Palau’s President Johnson Toribiong, representing the Pacific, clearly articulated the realities faced by citizens of these islands, which opened the ‘eyes’ of world leaders present at the dialogue session.

“Coming to these negotiations for two years now, I have observed that there is a lot of knowledge available, my plea is to lower that knowledge with a heart to inspire the world to take action, said President Toribiong, to the applause of delegates.

He said most of the countries present here in Cancun come from large continents that don’t see the destruction of climate change on a daily basis.

“This moment, as we are negotiating in Cancun, people in the islands are suffering psychologically from the rising sea level and contemplating what and where to move their families to.

If I am to use an analogy from a baseball game, for us, we don’t want a home run, all we need is to get to the finish base, said President Toribiong.

President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon supported Palau’s plea saying the “‘experiences and examples provided to world leaders by their colleagues should push the world to act. The time is now.”

Even in Mexico, we are mobilising our people to move if they are affected by climate change.

“We are now experimenting with building new rural cities to allow people whose lives will be affected to prepare for relocation, said President Calderon.

“There is a general sense of hopelessness for Pacific Island Countries because we cannot reverse the adverse effects of climate change.

The Palaun leader said, traditionally ‘we would appeal for divine intervention but this is not a problem from above but man-made, which requires a solution from all the countries.

“In Palau, the tide comes to the homes covering the floor and people wade to the road. When it first happened, we thought it was temporary but it has now become a permanent thing that we witness almost every day, said President Toribiong.

“That is why we are always appealing passionately to the international community to understand our situation.

Quoting from the Bible, if all else fails, the President of Palau said, ‘we are saved by grace through faith and that faith needs action.

“The world must now act out that faith to save not only the Pacific but citizens of the world who will become environmental refugees, said President Toribiong.

There were also powerful testimonies of the impact of climate change by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Grenada, Tilman Thomas, President of Honduras, Lobo Sosa and the President of Mexico. The open dialogue session titled Consequences of inaction – our responsibility to act now, was moderated by Lord Stern, the author of the influential 2006 Stern Review on the cost of tackling global warming.

Another Heads of State Dialogue is planned Thursday with the theme “The struggle against climate change – what should our legacy be?

It’s part of ongoing efforts by the hosts, Mexico to consult widely in an attempt to reach a successful conclusion in Cancun.

UN System side event on adaptation to climate change

UN Side event on adaptation panel of speakers

8 December, Cancun Mexico - The President of Kiribati, H.E Mr. Anote Tong chaired a side event at the UN climate change talks in Cancun today. Titled “UN System Side Event on Adaptation to Climate Change” it demonstrated the capability and readiness of the UN system to collectively support countries in developing and implementing adaptation policies, programme and projects.

Five leading UN agencies and programmes presented a range of concrete adaptation actions being jointly implemented in support for the development and implementation of adaptation policies, programmes and projects in the following areas: Adaptation and development, Science for adaptation, Human settlements, Disaster risk reduction, National level actions.

The side event ended with a final message from all the guest speakers:

President of Kiribati, HE. Mr Anote Tong:
"Kiribati is one of the most vulnerable counties and adaptation is somthing we despeately need for yesterday.  Not next week."

United Nations Development Programme, (Spokesperson on behalf of) Ms Helen Clark, Administrator:
“Adaptation after all is about partnerships, not about competition because when we work together we deliver better results.”

World Meteorological Organization, Mr Michel Jarraud, Secretary General:
“When you build a house you don’t start from the roof, you start from the foundation so my message is the foundation for me is the formation base of decision making. Do not forget the foundation.”

United Nations Human Settlements Programme, Ms. Axumite Gebre-Egziabher, Director, Shelter and Sustainable Human Settlements Development Division
"Adaptation is about sharing, learning, partnerships and moving into action as soon as possible."

United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reducation, Ms. Helena Molin Valdes, Deputy Director:
"To adapt to climate change  and reduce disaster risk is doing development in a smart way but it is also about including mitiging the greenhouse gases, which is part of the disaster risk reduction agenda.

World Food Programme, Mr Stanlake Samkange, WFP Country Director, Uganda:
"The UN can come together particularly on the issue of climate change but we have to comne together and if we don’t we will be rightfully margainilised."

Statements made during the High Level Segment of the COP 16: Palau

Statement by Honourable Johnson Toribiong, President of the Republic of Palau

Madame President:

I stand here before you as a Head of State, but I am speaking as one of the Sons of the Pacific.  Our livelihood, indeed our very existence, depends upon the oceans.  The ebb and flow of the oceans are as much a part of our lives as the air we breathe.  But today we stand on the frontlines of climate change.  The oceans, which once sustained us, are now threatening to swallow us whole.

While Palau is safe for the time being, the oceans' warming, rise and acidification threaten everyone's existence.  The world cannot continue to treat climate change as subject of negotiation.  Climate change is not negotiable.  It is a crisis.  The world must take cation immediately to reduce greenhouse gas emissions - which is the very reason we are all here.

As Palau's President, my first duty is to protect the Palauan people.  I take that responsibility very seriously; it is whey I am here in Cancun.  But there is only so much I, or any Palauan, can do.  The sad trush is that the countries least responsible for causing climate change ar the ones most threatened by it.

The presence of my fellow Pacific Heads of State in this room today is a testament to the threats we and other Small Island Developing States face.  Let not our voices fall on deaf ears.  The world must heed our cry for collective action to save us for now, and the world in the future.

Madame President:

The stark scientific reality we face is that much damange has already been done to our planet.  I have no words to describe my deep concern at the recent findings that sea level rise has taken place disproportionately in the Pacific.  But I am an optimist.  I believe that human creativity and ingenuity can be refocused to turn the world's economies green and reverse the adverse affects of climate change.