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President Anote Tong at COP16, Cancun, Mexico

‘Change must happen now’

Cancun, Mexico, 8 December 2010—His Excellency Anote Tong, President of the Republic of Kiribati, made a statement today at the occasion of the Opening Ceremony of the  High Level Segment of the COP 16/CMP6.

FULL TRANSCRIPT

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, am 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.

COP16 related media enquiries for the Government of Kiribati can be directed to Mr Rimon Rimon, of the Office of the President: rimon@ob.gov.ki.
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
Tarawa Climate Change Conference

Action declared at Ambo

Tarawa Climate Change ConferencePress release, Office of the President, Ambo, Kiribati, 12 November 2010—Kiribati’s Tarawa Climate Change Conference (TCCC) ended this week by giving birth to the Ambo Declaration (pdf), a resolution of grave concern on the climate crisis calling for an immediate action on climate change funds.

The one-day intensive talks dragged on to the late hours of the evening, before delegates from frontline states such as the Maldives and the Marshall Islands and major developing nations, including Brazil and China, agreed on 18 points.

The 18 points of the Ambo Declaration recorded the signatories ‘ concerns on the urgency of the climate crisis calling for immediate access to adaptation funds to meet and address current and projected impacts of climate change.

In a press conference at the end of the day, Kiribati leader and Chair of the Tarawa Climate Change Conference—President Anote Tong, told reporters that the Ambo Declaration will contribute hopefully to some positive steps forward in the Cancun negotiations which is just weeks away.

“I am realistic enough to understand that the process will go on for quite some time, the negotiations will carry on but I also believe that there is sufficient conscience and good will existing in this global community at least to address the urgent issues now.” President Tong said.

In a nation where one can throw a stone and actually hit the other side of the island, the climate crisis will be an issue Kiribati will never tire of raising and while the climate talks on Tarawa may have put the drowning atoll nation on the map, this will not promise its continued existence.

“The message we are trying to make here very clearly is that we are running out of time and as long the global community continues to debate, it may be too late for some countries.” President Tong added.

With the failed talks in Copenhagen, the hope now is up for Cancun as the adoption of the Ambo Declaration is in itself, a foretaste of what can be achieved in Cancun.

The Ambo Declaration was adopted by 12 countries namely Australia, Brazil,  China, Cuba, Fiji, Japan, Kiribati, Maldives, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Solomon Islands and Tonga. The United States, the United Kingdom and Canada, who also attended the conference, chose not to be part of the declaration by taking Observer status.

Download a copy of the Ambo Declaration (pdf)

Related media coverage:

Tarawa Climate Change Conference

World leaders confirm Tarawa forum

Tarawa Climate Change ConferenceOffice of the President, Tarawa, Kiribati, 26 October 2010—Kiribati’s conference on Climate Change, designated the Tarawa Climate Change Conference (TCCC) is now geared up to get underway from the 9th to 11th November after the confirmation of participation of 15 countries, with more expected to confirm in the coming days.

UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christina Figueres has also conveyed her consideration in joining this TCCC gathering and once this is confirmed, is expected to deliver a statement on the status of negotiations to date in the lead up to Cancun, Mexico later this year.

“UNFCCC presence, being the key steering arm in shaping negotiations and agreements on climate change is vital at the meeting on Tarawa moreover as UNFCCC meetings in recent months have progressed positively tying in perfectly with the intentions of the Tarawa Conference.” A report from the President’s Office said.

Earlier this month at the UNFCCC meeting in Tianjin, China, governments have made progress in defining what can be achieved at the UN Climate Conference in Cancun.

Ms Figueres pointed out the critical importance of “turning dry texts into a set of keys that unlock a new level of climate action – among rich and poor, business and consumers, governments and citizens.”

TCCC is intended to be the final stepping block to consolidate common interest among countries on the issue of climate change outside of the UNFCCC process and therefore the outcomes could be considered as contributions to the sessions in Cancun.

In a joint press conference on the final day of the Tianjin meeting, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christina Figueres and Mexican Foreign Minister and incoming President of COP16, Patricia Espinosa said that “the outcomes of this year’s conferences can truly be the start of a new era of cooperative global climate action.” They added that Cancun can and should be a very significant step forward.

The TCCC will however, provide a realistic advantage for participants aside from the meeting as they will have time to witness the brunt of climate change experienced in this atoll nation.

“Countries which have confirmed their arrival in Tarawa for the meeting are Australia, Canada, China, Cuba, European Union, India, Japan, Maldives, New Zealand, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, United Kingdom and the United States (USA),” the report added.

More countries will be confirming their participation by early next week while organizations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), UNFCC, Australia‐based Pacific Calling Partnership, Pacific Council of Churches, World Bank, and the regional environment body – SPREP have confirmed their participation in the meeting.

For further information and media accreditation for TCCC, please contact the Press Liaison Unit, Office of Te Beretitenti,  rterubea@ob.gov.ki or rimon@ob.gov.ki
The media accreditation deadline is 1 November 2010. Accreditation procedure and forms can be obtained from the TCCC Website.
Tarawa Climate Change Conference

Kiribati to host world climate forum

Press Release – His Excellency the President of Kiribati Mr Anote Tong is pleased to host the next session of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, designated the Tarawa Climate Change Conference, which will be held in Tarawa, the capital of the atoll nation of Kiribati, from the 9th to the 11th November.  The conference will bring together selected representatives from the key negotiating groups within the UNFCCC process to attend a one day high level conference on climate change.

The Climate Vulnerable Forum was initiated by the Republic of the Maldives in 2009 to bring together countries that were particularly susceptible to the adverse impacts of climate change to discuss ways in which they could proactively prepare for and address these impacts.  This included an initiative to provide input to the wider climate change debate that was hoped would culminate in a conclusion that would be legally binding to all parties to the convention in Copenhagen at the end of 2009.

It is now widely acknowledged that the Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen was not able to produce the outcomes that were expected in regards to addressing the substantive issues of climate change at the global level. Primarily it fell short in producing an agreement that could be binding on the part of all Parties to the Convention. As such, global attention is now turning to Cancun at the end of the year to facilitate such an agreement; however, the reality to date suggests there is little evidence that this will be realized.

Nevertheless it is important to realize that there has been some progress in global negotiations since Copenhagen and it is now necessary to maintain any momentum that has been gained. It is to this end that the Climate Vulnerable Forum continues to highlight and consolidate those points that can be agreed upon in the next Conference of the Parties. Should these points not be able to be translated into action in the immediate term, they must continue to feature in the global negotiations process and lead the way forward towards a future agreement.

The ultimate purpose of the TCCC is to agree on these points of common interest between key negotiating groups and forge a path in which Parties to the UNFCCC can move towards action in addressing the impacts of climate change on the most vulnerable states.  This is in recognition of the fact that progress is required on the ground to address the impacts that are already felt and are expected to worsen with time. Consequently it is important that while discussions are ongoing on the main points of difference, these should not prevent what can be agreed and acted upon now.

For more information, contact: Mr Michael Foon, Tarawa Climate Change Secretariat, Office of Te Beretitenti (President),  P.O.Box 68, Tarawa Republic of Kiribati. Tel: +686 21183, fax:+686 21902 or email: mfoon@ob.gov.ki

 

The atolls and islands of Kiribati are not more than a few meters above sea level. Photo: Finn Frandsen, Politiken

Seawalls to protect Kiribati shorelines

Tarawa, Kiribati, 10 August 2010: The lives of over 40,000 people in South Tarawa, Kiribati are linked by a single road.It  provides not only transport but a vital connection to supplies,  schools, hospitals and the airport. Upon arrival, it is impossible not  to notice the fragility of this crucial logistical link that is often  literally crumbling into the lagoon. In some areas the adjacent main  water supply pipeline has been uncovered and is also at risk due to  coastal erosion.

“Kiribati is vulnerable to climate change and sea level rise which we can see the effects of visually,” said Tebutonga Ereata, Director of Lands at the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Agriculture Development (MELAD), highlighting the urgency of the situation. “There are places that have been eroded quite seriously. We are already vulnerable now.”

Four key locations in South Tarawa are being protected by new KAPII (Kiribati Adaptation Program – Pilot Implementation Phase II)  seawall constructions. The design for new walls at the Ambo-Taborio  causeway, Bairiki-Nanikaai causeway, Korobu Road and Bonriki Airport  runway have been prepared by utilizing a new set of guidelines  specifically developed for Kiribati by BECA International and funded by  KAPII. These ‘Shoreline Protection Guidelines’ are now available  for use in Kiribati to design and implement improved coastal protection  measures that include traditional sandbag walls and also consider new  seawall designs and ‘soft’ options.

“The new guidelines will be a really important document for the government and for this ministry,” said Moanataake Beiabure, Acting Director of the Ministry of Public Works and Utilities. “From  them we can base a method to carry out the proper surveys and then  adopt which kind of coastal protection is appropriate. It may not always  be a seawall, it can be soft protection such as beach replenishment or  mangrove planting.”

Mr. Ereata also agreed regarding the importance of this new document. “The  guidelines will assist decision makers and especially the Foreshore  Management Committee that makes recommendations to approve development  along the foreshore. They have been developed in such a way that will  make decisions easier and well informed. It is crucial that we use them  and train people how to use them.”

The development of the  guidelines involved the Foreshore Management Committee and four key  ministries who collaborated during workshops held by BECA International.

“They  (the guidelines) need to be further implemented into relevant  department activities so that they are really used as a day to day guide  in this aspect where coastlines are concerned. We need to really get  that out there,” said Mr. Ereata.

This type  of cross-sector approach is seen as vital for Climate Change Adaptation  (CCA) efforts where related issues often impact across every part of  society. Mr. Beiabure even felt that “the public can adopt these guidelines for their use, not just the government.”

In  June 2010 the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicated  that it would “almost inevitably” increase predictions for sea-level  rises due to climate change. With this dramatic news the importance of  the new ‘Shoreline Protection Guidelines’ to Kiribati are highlighted  even more than ever.

The Government of Kiribati KAPII project  is supported by the World Bank, the Global Environmental Facility,  AusAID and NZAID. The key goal is to reduce Kiribati’s vulnerability to  climate change, climate variability and sea level rise.

Related Information

For more information, contact: Government Of Kiribati, Office Of Te Beretitenti (President), P.O. Box 68, Bairiki, Tarawa, Republic of Kiribati. Telephone: (686) 21183 or Fax: (686) 21902.
President Tong COP16

Kiribati reveals ‘human face of climate change’

President Tong COP16

Kiribati President Anote Tong with colleagues at COP16

Press release, Copenhagen, Denmark: 14 December 2009—Kiribati President Anote Tong says  history has seen nations lose their sovereignty and human rights through  warfare and actions of aggressive neighbours; the effects of climate  change will be just the same as if Kiribati had been attacked by a very  hostile and deadly enemy.

“The issue of climate change is the greatest moral challenge of  the 21st century,” says the President of Kiribati, Anote Tong, who  arrives in Copenhagen on 15 December.

“The world can no longer afford the consequences of inaction.   Low-lying states like Kiribati are already the human face of climate  change.”

“We are among the most vulnerable of the vulnerable.  Even a  marginal increase in sea levels will be disastrous for our country’s  future.”

“Only last week we experienced damaging storm surges and the  destruction of sea walls.  Ever worsening scientific forecasts bring us  little comfort; we directly experience higher tides and more frequent  storms, which bring saltwater intrusion and coastal flooding.  We have  long periods of drought, an endangered supply of fresh water, and  bleaching of the coral reefs that cradle our islands.”

“Increased flooding has already forced some of our villagers to  move inland – but this is a short trip, because our islands are so  narrow – there is no place to go.  If we keep moving back we fall into  the sea.”

“These countries are like the canary in the coal mine in terms of  the dramatic impact of climate change on a whole civilization of  people,” says Harvard University biological oceanographer James J. McCarthy. “They didn’t cause the problem, but they are among the first to feel it.

Spread over about 3.5 million square kilometres in the Central  Pacific, the Republic of Kiribati (pronounced “Kiribas”) lies midway  between Hawaii and Fiji. Formerly the Gilbert Islands under British  colonial rule, its three major island groups are home to 100,000 people.

Classified by the United Nations as “a least developed country,”  the economic development of Kiribati is severely constrained by its  dispersed and isolated atoll geography and narrow resource base.

“We find it very disturbing to hear international commentators  speak of our country and its continued welfare as being an issue of  ‘collateral damage’,” says the President.  “Climate change is a deeply  human issue – it is about the rights of a people to enjoy their  sovereignty, their dignity, their lifestyle and their culture.  It also  calls into question the effectiveness of our international organizations  to act on behalf of all members.”

“If we can mobilize trillions of dollars to address the challenges  to the global economy, then we are capable of taking the actions  necessary to deal with the challenges of the global environment.

“We are a proud people,” says the President.  “We do not come to  Copenhagen as beggars – that is not our way. But we cannot face this  huge challenge without international support – both practical and  moral.”

“In Kiribati, the Maldives, Tuvalu and the Marshalls, whole  communities face real danger – their survival is at stake – our own  survival is at stake as a people, as a unique and vibrant culture and as  a sovereign nation.”

“To turn your back and watch your neighbour go down when you could  have done something – I think that’s immoral, and calls into question  our humanity, and the way we treat each other as members of the human  family.”

“Along with our endangered partners we call upon all world leaders  to act with humanity and without delay, we call on the world media to  help raise our voice, and we call on all citizens of the planet to  address with real compassion, commitment and urgency the critical issues  we, the most vulnerable, are facing.”

For more information, please contact: Government Of Kiribati, Office Of Te Beretitenti (President), P.O. Box 68, Bairiki, Tarawa, Republic of Kiribati. Telephone: (686) 21183, Fax: (686) 21902
A traditional Kiribati was performed at a side event at the COP15

Kiribati gives ‘heartbreaking presentation’

A  traditional Kiribati was performed at a side event at  the COP15

A traditional Kiribati was performed at a side event at the COP15

Copenhagen, Denmark, 9 December 2009: The delegation from Kiribati held a very successful  side event at  the COP15 conference on Wednesday,  the 9th of December that was widely  covered in media throughout the world.

A  heartbreaking presentation by the Kiribati delegation this afternoon:  the science of sea-level rise interspersed with song and dance.” – Social entrepreneur, founder and Chairman of Solarcentury, the UK’s largest solar solutions company, and regular Guardian columnist, Jeremy Leggett.

Watch the UNFCCC  coverage here.

Watch coverage available on YouTube here.

His Excellency President Anote Tong

President addresses climate forum

President’s Speech, Malé, Republic of Maldives’s, 10 November 2009:  As a Leader of one of the most vulnerable Small Island Developing  States, I am obliged – indeed I have a duty to the people I serve – to  provide options for my people and to prepare them for the worst case  scenario.  This is a duty that we all share as Leaders and governments  of the most vulnerable countries.  We are the human face of climate  change.  We represent the frontline in the queue of casualties and if  the world continues with business as usual then there is no doubt that  other countries will be next on the frontline and eventually the whole  of humanity will be on the frontline.

Each of our countries has its own strategies to address the  challenges we face.  While we should continue to push for deep global  emission cuts to stabilise the concentration of greenhouse gases in the  atmosphere to a safer level to ensure that casualties of climate change  is minimised, the fate of those on the frontline now should be  addressed.

Adaptation strategies have indeed been effective in dealing with  the problem caused by sea level rise in the short term but the ability  of some countries like mine to adapt within their national borders will  be eroded along with their islands.  It is inevitable, therefore, that  adaptation options for low lying countries in the long term must include  as a last resort relocation to higher ground in other countries.  The  implications of what such an eventuality would mean for our people are  unthinkable and raise many questions for which we do not have any  answers at this point in time.  I have been accused on many occasions of  being too defeatist.  I say I am being pragmatic and realistic.

A number of likely strategies for relocation have been put  forward by different countries for their people.  Some are arguing for  the recognition of environmental refugee status under international law  while others are seeking foreign lands to purchase for their people.

We, in Kiribati, are currently undertaking a comprehensive  evaluation of all of the options available, including: preparing cost  estimates of building up our islands to levels that would ensure their  integrity in the face of rising seas this century; the prospects of  purchasing lands in other countries; assessing the viability of  artificial floating islands; and, as a last resort, migration to other  countries. The study will necessarily involve a detailed analysis of the  implications of all of these options from the social, economic and  legal perspectives. Based on the outcome of this study we will then be  able to make a more informed decision on the option or indeed the  combination of options (which is more likely to be the case) we will  take. But whatever options we take, the bottom line must be that it must  maintain as much as possible the integrity of our identity, culture and  dignity as a people. It will also be the case that the success of  whatever options we adopt will depend largely on the commitment of the  international community to participate in the solution. The solutions  will require significant resourcing and co-operation on a global scale.  In spite of being in danger of repeating my earlier comments made in  other fora I would like to say once again that models which directly  address some of these issues already exist and are in operation. The  annual quota of migrants accessing New Zealand and the up skilling of  our people in Australian institutions enabling them to access the  international labour markets are examples of what are achievable given  the political will.

I have been keeping track of developments on the Climate Change  Talks leading up to Copenhagen and I must admit that progress has not  only been disappointing but moreover does not seem to be in accord with  the sentiments expressed by Leaders at the UN Climate Change Summit in  New York in September this year. At the Summit discussions there was  clear political commitment at leadership level for an agreement to be  concluded – to seal the deal at Copenhagen. The current status of the  Talks would lend speculation to one of two possibilities: either that  our officials have proceeded without regard for the clear mandate by  leaders to seal the deal; or that (and I hope this is not the case) this  is a deliberate attempt by some to ensure that indeed the deal is not  sealed. Assuming that the commitments made at the Summit were genuine  and in an attempt to put the whole process back on track, it seems that  the way forward would be for the UN Secretariat to come up with a  summary document which reflects the political commitments made at the  Summit and incorporates the points on which consensus has been reached  during the Talks and identifies those issues which remain to be resolved  for further consideration. We have come so far and it would be so  irresponsible of us if we were to discard all of the positive progress  made so far because we could not reach agreement on the rest. I, for  one, had never been so optimistic as to believe that total agreement  would be reached in one sitting. I submit therefore that whilst dialogue  must continue on outstanding issues it is imperative that we seal the  deal at Copenhagen on those issues over which there is agreement. During  the UN High-Level Climate Change Summit there was speculation that the  current deadlock on some issues would indeed occur and a proposition was  put forward that perhaps we would do better to adopt a political  document outlining points of principle rather than to delve into the  details for fear of getting bogged down – a scenario which indeed has  occurred.

It may be worth considering such an option during our discussions  in this Forum. For some of us the possibility of coming away from  Copenhagen without an agreement is something we cannot afford to happen  given the severity and urgency of our situation.

On some of the more specific issues to be addressed at Copenhagen  we believe that there has to be a rational mechanism for availability  of whatever resources might be pledged internationally so that resources  are applied effectively and in accordance with some priority listing. I  also believe that the Kyoto Protocol should form the basis for  negotiations of a post-2012 arrangement so that we are not reversing the  trend of developments made so far.

In closing, I wish once again to extend my deep appreciation for  the initiative taken by you Your Excellency in convening this timely  Forum and to your Government and your people for the warm welcome and  hospitality extended to us since our arrival to your beautiful country  and for the excellent arrangements made for these discussions.

Thank you.

For more information, please contact: Government Of Kiribati, Office Of Te Beretitenti (President), P.O. Box 68, Bairiki, Tarawa, Republic of Kiribati. Telephone: (686) 21183 Fax: (686) 21902

President Tong addresses the UN General Assembly, New York, 2009

President tells of greatest challenge

President Tong addresses the UN General Assembly, New York, 2009New York, 26 September 2009: President H.E. Mr Anote Tong addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations on the 26th of September 2009. In his speech,he declared that climate change was the greatest moral challenge of our time, and the world could not afford the consequences of inaction. The people of his country were already feeling the impacts of climate change, which he said would only worsen with time. “We, together with those of other low-lying States, are the human face of climate change.”

He advocated pragmatic adaptation strategies, and stressed that it was the Government’s desire to “maintain our homeland and our sovereignty”. However, with the island’s ever-shrinking ability to support life, its growing population and rising sea levels, the Government also wanted to provide opportunities for those who wished to migrate to do so, on merit and with dignity. While calling for assistance with adaptation measures, he also asked those nations that might need his country’s labour to open their doors.

Urging international support for relocation strategies, he referred to strategies, in cooperation with New Zealand and Australia, such as the Kiribati Australia Nursing Initiative and the Australia Pacific Technical College, which he believed could be implemented more broadly and could become win-win options for all concerned.

Turning to the international community’s work on climate change, he said it would be important to reach consensus in Copenhagen, and asked: “If we can mobilize trillions of dollars to address the challenges to the global economy, then we are capable of taking the actions necessary to deal with the challenges of the global environment.”The key was to capitalize on collective political will, he said urging delegations not to waste time on “diplomatic-speak, posturing and empty platitudes”.

He said that everyone knew what needed to be done and stressed that the Copenhagen summit provided an opportunity to enter into a global compact for action on climate change –- between developed and developing; North and South; East and West. “This is perhaps our last chance. If we do not act now, who will?”

For more information, contact: Government Of Kiribati Office Of Te Beretitenti (President) P.O. Box 68 Bairiki Tarawa Republic of Kiribati Telephone: (686) 21183 Fax: (686) 21902