Tuvalu at the United Nations

Delivered by
His Excellency, Mr. Afelee F Pita
Ambassador/Permanent Representative of Tuvalu
to the United Nations
at the Special Session of the Security Council 
on Energy, Climate and Security
Tuesday 17th April 2007

Madam President
Tuvalu is greatly honoured to be given this golden opportunity to speak at the UN Security Council. First, I must thank you, Madam President, and the wisdom of your government for calling for this special open debate of the Council under the theme of energy, security and climate.

At the 60th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly in 2005, and in many other occasions in the United Nations, the Government of Tuvalu highlighted the issue of environment security, particularly in relation to climate change. We are extremely grateful to see that this concern is now on the agenda of the Security Council. As it wisely decided in 2000 in regards to the issue of security threats of HIV/AIDS, we strongly believe the Security Council should permanently place on its agenda the issue of climate change and environmental security.

As it is known, this is a topic of extreme importance to a small, atoll nation like Tuvalu. The recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change further highlights the extreme vulnerability of island countries like Tuvalu to the impacts of climate change, and the urgent necessity for global actions to address their vulnerability.

We face many threats associated with climate change. Ocean warming is changing the very nature of our island nation. Slowly our coral reefs are dieing through coral bleaching, we are witnessing changes to fish stocks, and we face the increasing threat of more severe cyclones. With the highest point of four metres above sea level, the threat of severe cyclones is extremely disturbing, and severe water shortages will further threaten the livelihoods of people in many islands.

Madam President, our livelihood is already threatened by sea level rise, and the implications for our long term security are very disturbing. Many have spoken about the possibility of migrating from our homeland. If this becomes a reality, then we are faced with an unprecedented threat to our nationhood. This would be an infringement on our fundamental rights to nationality and statehood as constituted under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international conventions.

But Tuvalu is not alone in facing the threats of climate change, many millions of people will suffer the effects. The world has moved from a global threat once called the Cold War, to what now should be considered the “Warming War”. Our conflict is not with guns and missiles but with weapons from everyday lives – chimney stacks and exhaust pipes.

We are confronted with a chemical war of immense proportions, and as you, Madam President, correctly underscored at the last UNGA general debate. “…if we continue to free ride on climate change, we will all face free fall due to its impacts”.

Madam President
In regards to energy, it is clear from ongoing world crisis that the security dimensions of prohibitive access to and use of sources of energy must be addressed.  The world needs a mix of energy sources that is easily accessible to all countries and communities. Tuvalu’s own security is also threatened by the high costs of energy supply. Importing fossil fuels into Tuvalu to provide fuel for our electricity generation and inter-island transport is one of the greatest drains on our economy, which could otherwise have been saved for climate change adaptation. Our economic sustainability is contingent on us acquiring self-sustaining and reliable renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. 

We humbly call upon the Security Council to understand and respond to these new concepts of security and conflict.

Madam President
Tuvalu joined the UN on 5 September 2000 firmly believing in the UN noble pillars of development, security and human rights as the source of security against the very threat of climate change. By virtue of this membership our security concerns due to climate change cannot be simply ignored. The Security Council must consider the threat to our national security and ultimately to global security with a new perspective. We are a peace loving nation and have no army. We pose no security threat even if we face the full consequences of climate change, but we must not disappear from the Security Council radar screen. As the great Martin Luther King said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

Madam President, through you we therefore beseech the Security Council to act urgently to address the threats to our national security. We would respectfully wish to make four concrete suggestions:

First, we believe that the real and serious threat posed by climate change, demands solutions and decisions to be taken at the highest level of government. As in the UNGA debates we strongly encourage the Security Council for a resolution to urge the UN Secretary General to convene a World Leaders Summit on Climate Change as soon as possible.
Second, the World Leaders Summit should create the impetus to establish a new economic forum to dramatically boost access to environmentally-friendly, and energy security options for all nations of the world. In this context, however, nuclear and “clean” fossil fuel cannot be part of the solution for Tuvalu and many SIDS considering security risks on our fragile environments. It is our humble view that the rapid development and deployment of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies must be the primary focus of an energy security agenda. These have the benefits of creating energy self-sufficiency, reducing poverty and making a major contribution to mitigating climate change.

Third, there is an urgent need to build strong institutional arrangements to protect and restore vulnerable countries, like Tuvalu from the impacts of climate change. We need a global strategy on adaptation and disaster risk reduction which should include new insurance facilities. These can be key themes for consideration at the proposed Summit on Climate Change.

Finally, Madam President, we strongly encourage the Security Council to review its charter and to fully embrace the concept of environmental security within its mandate. This is not simply a matter of identifying trouble spots where armed conflict may be linked to environmental decline. We believe that the Security Council should address environmental decline as a security issue in itself.

Madam President
As former Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan, stated at COP12 in Nairobi, “The question is not when climate change will happen, but whether we can change fast enough.”  The Security Council must provide the much needed impetus for that timely change to address climate change. Tuvalu looks forward to the ongoing considerations of this agenda and sincerely hopes that the Security Council can find a meaningful way to address the security concerns of extremely vulnerable countries like Tuvalu. My delegation fully supports the United Kingdom’s proposal on climate change before the Security Council.

I thank you.

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