His Excellency President Anote Tong

Kiribati to chair COP16 side event

Cancun, Mexico, 2 December 2010—If there is one figure most dedicated to climate change issues in the pacific region, it would be none other than the President of Kiribati, His Excellency Anote Tong.

President Tong, 58, has emerged as both a global leader in Ocean Conservation and an outspoken speaker on the issue of global warming… all in the interest of ensuring the ultimate survival of the one hundred thousand people of his drowning nation, Kiribati.

He has attracted international attention by warning that his country may become uninhabitable by the 2050s and he has every reason to.

His nation, a country where you can literally throw a stone from one side of the island to the other is only two-meters above the sea. The rising sea levels and saltwater intrusion to the island’s fresh water system unquestionably explains President Tong’s dedication to this cause.

He has devised a ‘merit-based migration’ plan that will prepare his people not to become refugees but to relocate with dignity if the time comes and, has gifted the world with a marine park so massive in size to complement his vision for creating a Pacific Oceanscape.

“Earlier at the UN General Assembly I was bitter with disappointment at the international community for not listening. But then it became clear that if we made a contribution this large, it was also a statement on our part. So, this is a significant contribution to the world community in the hope they would also act.” President Tong said.

Ahead of the high-level segment of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP16 meeting in Cancun next week, President Tong has responded to the invitation by UNFCCC Chief, Ms Christiana Figueres to Chair the UN-wide Side Event on Adaptation.

“Given the very active and continued role that President Tong has had on adaptation, he has earnestly considered the invitation to be of importance to Kiribati and given the vitally essential issues of adaptation in the country in relation to the adverse impacts of climate change, he (President Tong) has confirmed his keenness in chairing this important side event.” Secretary, Office of the President— Mr. Tangitang Kaureata told RMAT.

President Tong and his Secretary will be arriving in Cancun to attend the high-level segment of the COP16 climate talks just in time for this UN-wide side event on Adaptation which is scheduled for Wednesday, 8 December 2010.

Under the umbrella of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination which is headed by the UN Secretary General, the UNFCCC is entrusted to convene this side event on the afternoon of Wednesday, 8 December, 13:20—14:40 local time, in  Room Mamey, at the Cancun Messe.

As mentioned in the invitation letter to President Tong… “the side event intends to showcase some of the work being undertaken by members of the United Nations system to support adaptation in developing countries, with a view to demonstrating that the United Nations stands ready to provide the support required to implement enhanced adaptation actions within a new climate regime.”

The event has already attracted key speakers such as Ms. Helen Clark—Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, Mr. Michael Jarraud—Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization, and Ms. Margareta Wahlström—Assistant Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Special Representative of the Secretary General for the implementation of the Hyogo, Framework for Action, among other Heads of UN Agencies due to confirm their participation.

For further information, please contact Rimon Rimon, Office of the President, rimon@ob.gov.ki