During a recent visit to Australia, President Tong spoke with Nic Maclellan from Islands Business about global warming, climate migration, the Pacific Islands Forum and Kiribati’s role in regional fisheries negotiations.
In 2010, Kiribati hosted an international conference in Tarawa to focus attention on climate impacts in the Pacific. Since then, do you think progress on a global climate treaty has stalled?
Our experience has not been entirely optimistic. After the Copenhagen meeting, there was a lot of disappointment. Much of our disappointment was based on our high expectations of what the outcomes might be. Like any major international treaty, it doesn’t happen overnight, or even after a couple of years or even ten years. I think we have major treaties in place which took decades to conclude. With the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, I don’t think we’ll conclude until we change our approach. It’s always been my contention that we’re dealing with too much detail in a document that’s highly controversial because the issues are very critical to different countries at different levels of development. My view has been to agree on a broad document and then deal with issues on a piecemeal basis. Unless we do that, our hopes for success are very dim. Quite frankly, I’m beginning to think that perhaps we should not put everything in those discussions. Perhaps, we should now begin to explore existing arrangements and simply add provisions into those agreements relating to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.
Does this mean that negotiations should move from the UNFCCC to another body like the Major Economies Forum or G20 where the members are the major emitters of greenhouse gasses? Will this leave the Alliance of Small Islands States out of the dialogue?
I think the key to all of this is our genuine desire to resolve this. If there is a genuine desire, then we will find a way. Compromise is always possible but there has got to be a genuine desire to compromise. Without this, whatever forum we adopt, it will not work. Whatever agreement the developed countries come to, AOSIS and the other developing countries will find fault with it.
It’s a matter of finding commonalities rather than arguing over controversial issues at this time. We need to build up confidence in the way we want to head, and if we do that, then perhaps the possibilities of reaching consensus might be there.
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