TUVALU STATEMENT PRESENTED BY
HIS EXCELLENCY THE RT HON Bikenibeu Paeniu
PRIME MINISTERIAL SPECIAL ENVOY ON CLIMATE CHANGE
UNITED NATIONS FRAMEWORK CONVENTION ON
CLIMATE CHANGE - CONFERENCE OF PARTIES 3
8 DECEMBER 1997
extend to you, your Government and the people of Japan, as well as to
distinguished delegates here in this august gathering, Christmas Greetings
and Best Wishes for a fruitful New Year from the Government and people of
Through you Sir, let me also convey our warm and sincere thanks and
appreciation to the Government and people of Japan and in particular the
people of Kyoto Prefecture for their kind and warm hospitality to us all.
Mr. President, Honourable Leaders of Delegations, Delegates, Ladies and
There is an asserted consensus that binding significant targets to reduce
greenhouse gases are essential, if the catastrophic impacts of climate
change on the livelihood and existence of people are to be limited. Our mere
presence here in Kyoto this week manifests this belief. For the people of
low-lying small island states of the world, however, and certainly of my
small island country of Tuvalu in the Pacific, this is no longer a debatable
argument. The impacts of global warming on our islands are real, and are
already threatening our very survival and existence. The security of our
future and that of our children and grandchildren is indeed at stake.
It is therefore essential and imperative that this Conference in Kyoto takes
into account the plight already faced by the people of Tuvalu and those
similarly low lying small island States, within the final negotiated text of
the Protocol. As is well known, Mr. President, Tuvalu is one of the smallest
island states on earth with all the characteristics of smallness, i.e. low
lying, isolated, geographically fragmented and extremely vulnerable to
external forces including climate change impacts.
The vulnerability and fragility of Tuvaluís ecological system and its
proneness to climate change effects is well documented. Mr. President, a
1996 assessment of climate change impacts and adaptation carried out for
Tuvalu by the Environment agency of Japan and the South Pacific Regional
Environment Programme (SPREP), convincingly concluded that, I quote, "..
because of its location and physical nature, Tuvalu is particularly
susceptible to the adverse impacts of climate change and in particular
rising sea level". Unquote. This conclusion spells it all out, and is
consistent with the findings highlighted in the second assessment report of
the IPCC. Added to which is the conclusion from many scientific studies that
coral reef islands like my very own, will be uninhabitable when sea level
rises as a result of global warming and climate change.
Mr. President, empirically, these findings have very close correlations with
what Tuvalu and many in the Pacific have actually and physically experienced
and suffered as a result of climate change, especially strong winds and sea
level rise. We are already experiencing increased frequency of cyclones,
tornados, flooding, and tide surges many of which unexpectedly hit us
outside the usual climatic seasons of the islands. This year alone in 1997,
Tuvalu was devastated by three tropical cyclones; the firs two in March -
Gavin and Hina - and more recently Keli.
The costs of these effects to us in Tuvalu is enormous. It is almost
unbearable. Not only were houses and whole villages damaged, but also
vegetation and food crops were completely destroyed. In one recent incident
an entire island community was left homeless and its vegetation damaged so
much so that the island is uninhabitable right now. In another incident, one
whole islet completely disappeared into thin air. Erosion to coastal areas
of our already scarce land is further worsened, and the increased salinity
in underground water is seriously affecting not only vegetation and
traditional food crops but also the health and lives of the people.
Mr. President, clearly while Parties to the UNFCCC here in Kyoto debate over
what emission reductions to take, Tuvalu continues to bear and suffer the
increasing cost of climate change impacts which is threatening the very
existence, culture and unique identity of Tuvalu as a member of the global
community. Mr. President, there is nowhere else on earth that can substitute
for our God-given homeland in Tuvalu. The option of relcoation as mooted by
some countries therefore is utterly insensitive and irresponsible.
My delegation fully appreciates the high costs to developed countries of
reducing greenhouse gas emissions to acceptable levels. Indeed coming from a
small island state already suffering from the effects of climate change, we
are trying to understand the rationality of lack of actions to implement
commitments made in Rio five years ago. However, we also wish to remind the
Conference that the costs of not doing something to that effect, urgently
now, are even much higher. To us in Tuvalu it is certainly not a question of
economics and costs. It is a matter of life and death. Ignoring our pleases
will amount to nothing less than denial of our rights to exist as part of
the global society and of the human race.
We therefore humbly call upon all Annex I countries to make a firm and
significant commitment to emission reductions. Given their capacities and
indeed their contributions so far to global warming, they should take the
first steps to reduce greenhouse gases. Developed countries should also
recognise the importance of setting strong QELROS targets in their efforts
to curb the negative impacts of climate change. Many proposals have been
discussed here in Kyoto and again I plea to those countries in Annex I to
seriously consider the vulnerability and plight of the small island states
as advocated by the AOSIS and as evidenced by physical climatic destruction
the world over.
Mr. President, we firmly believe that various measures and discounting
strategies proposed at this Conference such as the net approach; emissions
trading; differentiation; joint implementation; and the promotion of sinks
will not adequately address the immediate need to reduce emissions and curb
climate change impacts. Further delays of the proposed target over the years
will only bring forward the negative effects of climate change, which are
already evident in our part of the world.
We further ask all Annex I countries to carefully reconsider their efforts
to incorporate a least cost approach to resolving climate change. For Tuvalu
and small island states, this inevitably results in a high cost approach.
Minimising costs will delay preventative actions to reduce the rate of
We agree that advanced developing countries emissions are set to contribute
to the global problem of climate change in the very near future. However, we
think it is important that Annex I countries should agree to legally binding
commitments now and that advanced developing countries follow on emission
Mr. President, Kyoto must turn a page of new hopes as we look forward to the
future. The success, or failure, of COP3 hinges on Annex I countries taking
this very important first step.
Mr. President, before leaving Tuvalu my grandchildren asked me why I was
coming to Kyoto and whether I would be bringing back presents for their
Christmas. I am more than sure that the whole world, including our children
and grandchildren, is watching closely the outcomes of Kyoto. Is it going to
be a "new beginning" of committed human solidarity to arrest and resurrect
the risky situation faced by many disadvantaged small island states? Or is
it going to be hopeless outcome no one wants to remember Kyoto by. Let me
plead again that the best Christmas present I can take back from Kyoto is
not chocolates or lollies, but the assurance from Parties here, especially
developed countries, that their action to cut down significant emissions
will safeguard the continued security and survival of our children and their
children in the future, in Tuvalu and the world over.
Thank you, Mr. President.