Hon. Enele Sopoanga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu

Interview of Prime Minister of Tuvalu

1. What was the most crucial negotiation point at COP22 for Tuvalu?

The most important negotiation point at COP22 for Tuvalu was to implement the Paris Agreement. All the Parties had to keep the momentum from entering into force of the Paris Agreement, not to waste the time anymore, and move forward to implementation at COP22. Therefore, COP22 should be a stepping-stone for the implementation. No time to waste at COP22. That was the most important point for Tuvalu.

QDCOP22 has ended by adopting the work program under the Paris Agreement, which will be completed at COP24 in 2018. How do you see the result?

The out come of COP22 was not perfect. However, I think it was good. There were difficulties in the negotiations from political and economical aspect again at COP22. Moreover, there was some countries used the delay tactics. In the end, Tuvalu and other Parties who support Tuvalu was able to adopt meaningful decisions and made some progress toward implementation of the Paris Agreement at COP22.

There were two different views in the negotiations on work program at COP22. One was supported by Tuvalu and some other countries that ewe should not to waste time and the delay the implementationf. Because we thought that we must move ahead at COP23 and start to implement the Paris Agreement.

Another view was that ewe should wait until COP24 to start implementation of the Paris Agreement. However, we did not support this view and appealed that we must keep the momentum from the early entering into force of the Paris Agreement and must not lose this achievement.

This controversial point came from the fact that no one expected that the Paris Agreement would enter into force so fast(1) . Honestly, we are also very surprised by this happening. On 4th of November in 2016, the Paris Agreement entered into force. When the Paris Agreement was adopted at COP21, all the Parties expected it would take about 1 or 2 more years to enter into force. However, in fact, the Paris Agreement entered into force within a year, and we were surprised by our own success.

Therefore, Tuvalu sent out the message that fLetfs not turn down our success. Letfs run with our success and move forward further by taking this opportunity.

Actually, the Chair proposed two options. One was to adopt rules, modalities and procedures for implementation of the Paris Agreement at COP23 in 2017. Another was to adopt them at COP24 in 2018. However, Tuvalu thought it is necessary to implement the Paris Agreement early. So that, we believed that we negotiated them and was able to decide them at COP22.

There was another critical decision at COP22. That was on the Adaptation Fund(2), which is a financial tool of the Kyoto Protocol. With this decision, the Adaptation Fund was also able to use as a financing mechanism under the Paris Agreement. Tuvalu was calling out to make decision on this at COP22 in 2017, because we thought we donft have to wait for 2018.

The Adaptation Fund was designed to financially support countries that are vulnerable to the impact of climate change like Tuvalu. The decision on the Adaptation Fund at COP22 made it use for implementation of the Paris Agreement as well. That is what Tuvalu was asking for. The adaptation fund is the survival fund for small island States like Tuvalu. Although we said that we couldnft wait until 2018, other Parties wanted to wait until 2018 to decide and start to implement. After the negotiations, all the Parties decided to start the discussion on the rules and modalities now, and decide them in 2018.

The most significant out come at COP22 was that all the Parities decided on the work program for making rules, modalities and procedures to implement of the Paris Agreement. The good thing about the out come is that there is a work program for everybody to work on making rules every year toward the completion in 2018. We do not have to wait until 2018 to negotiate all the rules and adopt them at once. This is what we needed.

3. Mr. Donald Trump was elected as next US president during COP22. Do you see the result of the US presidential election affect the implementation of the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is an effective legally binding international framework. It has own tooth. It has own vehicles. It has own mechanism. So, it is very difficult to disturb the implementation of the Agreement. As Parties have signed and ratified it, and now the Agreement became an effective international law, Itfs not easy to play around with.

However, I have full respect for the result of the U.S. Presidential election. It should be respected, because is their decision. We have no right to interfere it.

Letfs work with the new President that the U.S. citizens elected. We respect US government and US people, as well as Japanese people. We must continue to work on the issue of climate change as a family.

Letfs come to a table for the discussions. I would like to invite the new President to come and visit to Tuvalu. And, one day, I hope to get a chance to meet him and talk with him. Actually, as one of the pacific leader, I wrote a congratulation letter him after he was elected.

In the letter, I said that ewe are all in one canoe. There is no other canoe for human race. We must keep the canoe float and keep it moving forward. All people in the world are on board. We must show our leadership not to have the canoe sink. If we fail, all of us will get drowned including US and Japanf. That was my message that sent to the President-Elect.

I would like to repeat that the Paris Agreement is an effective international law. No one has the right to destroy it. So, President Trump, letfs work together!

4. Fiji became the first Pacific Island Nation to be co-president of COP at COP23. Congratulations! How do you feel about it? What role should Pacific Island Nation play as co-chair of COP23?

As a Pacific leader, Ifm very happy that Fiji became a co-president of COP23 from the Pacific island Sates for the first time. Ifm so proud that Fiji is trying to play an important role in the international community and I will give my support to them.

From now, we will closely consult with Fiji as co- president of COP23 and Prime Minister of Fiji many times and give them our support as much as we can. The work as co-president of COP23 is not only during the conference period. It has started from now. COP23 will be the best opportunity for people in the Pacific island States to get a significant out come, which will ensure the security, safety and protection for people in the Pacific island States.

I will be in COP23 and I will commit my leadership. Ministers, members of the Parliament and experts in Tuvalu will support me.

Although Japan is not pacific island countries, Japan is like our brother. Not only Japan, but some other countries like Australia, New Zealand also will help Pacific island States and Fijian presidency at COP23. All of us work together to support Fiji, because this climate negotiation process is a very important canoe for the world. There is no other option. There is no plan B. There is no canoe B, either. We have to keep our canoe floating. We must move forward for benefit of all people in the canoe. If this canoe sinks, the future generation will look us shameful. So, at COP23, I hope that all leaders in the world will stand together with us.

Then, we must show to the world that the Pacific island States are strong leaders who can lead the world, although they are small.

5. Number of climate-displaced people is increasing. Therefore, you have been calling for UN GA resolution to establish a legal framework to protect the rights of people displaced by the impact of climate change. What type of legal framework is in your mind? Is that an International, regional or bilateral framework? What human rights do you think need to be protected?

Itfs quite critical that we work on these legal frameworks. What Tuvalu has been calling out? Fist, Itfs simply implementation of the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement is an effective international legal framework. But, rules and modalities to implement the Agreement need to be decided. Itfs not perfect. Itfs not everything. Most provisions of the Agreement open avenues and pass ways to develop feather mechanism and tools to protect people. So, Tuvalu has been calling for to have a UN legal framework, which will be a base for agreement or convention on climate-displaced people.

It is an international framework. Not a bilateral. Not a regional, either. It is for the UN to adapt. It could be a protocol of the Paris Agreement, which will be an effective international law. We need to advocate and promote this idea first. And we have to other countries to understand the idea.

We must find the ways to make this come true though quite complicated UN process. The process is like walking in a forest. No clear road inside. But, you have to know exactly which pass to take. Itfs a very difficult thing to do. What we need to do is to promote the concept of our idea, and explain our thought on the architect and the structure that make our concept come true. That is the first thing to do.

Then, the next is substance of the international legal framework. That is a problem. eProtectionf provided under the framework is to protect the rights of climate-displaced people. It is neither to relocate, nor to resettle in other countries.

Our county is very vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, because it is a small island nation. The sand coast will be gone. There will be no land, water security, and food security. We will not have many other things. There will be no base for adaptation. If erosions keep coming, the islands will disappear. What about people? What about the rights of people? 

Climate-displaced people are not refugees under the refugee convention. Their rights need to be protected by international law, if they are displaced to other countries or even to the other outer islands in the county. These ideas need to be included in the international framework to protect the rights of these people.

6. UK decided to close their last coal power plant in 2050. However, Japan is still planning to build new 48 coal power plants. How do you see this different attitude between these two countries?

What I want to emphasize is that it is necessity to shift all the economic principle urgently to more renewable energy focus. As no one will use the fissile fuels in the future, leave the coal and oil down there in the Earth. Letfs prepare ourselves to shift our economies to green.

The countries that do not make this shift will lose out in the competition. The international community already sees that using renewable energies doesnft cost common good of the environment will lead to the economic benefits. It also will reduce the breathing problem and medical cost, and will lead to the benefits for the health.

Please think carefully. Which will bring bigger economic benefit? Keep using fossil fuels? Or shifting to solar, wind, hydro, and biofuel, which is much cleaner than fossil fuels?

We are in the world that the global mean temperature has already risen 1. We have to limit the temperature rise up to 1.5 by implementing the Paris Agreement. If we cannot limit, we will have a lot of weather-related disasters like tropical cyclone and flood and the canoe we are riding will sink.

Although I respect Japanfs decision, I hope they will make a shift to a more renewable energy focused economy. We can make this paradigm shift and we can move together to a more renewable energy focused society.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) just released the outline of ethe Special Report on global warming of 1.5 above pre-industrial levelsf. It is duties for the world leaders to achieve the 1.5 temperature target under the Paris Agreement. However, donft leave it only to the leaders. Young generations must stand up and demand to take actions immediately. My sons and nephews also stand up to fight for the issue. Young children are the one that have the rights to say about this issue.

P.Since COP21 could not adopt the rules, modalities and procedures for implementation of the Paris Agreement, they decided to adopt them at the first session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA1). However, the Paris Agreement entered into force within 1 year. And as CMA1 was taken place together with COP22, it became in the situation that there is no the rules, modalities and procedures for implementation of the Paris Agreement to adopt at CMA1. Therefore, the work program toward the adoption of the rules was the main negotiation point at COP22.

2.The Adaptation Fund was created as one of the new financial mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol at COP7. The resource for the Fund is a levy (2% of the Certified Emission Reductions: CERs) from Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The Fund are used for the adaptation project or making National Adaptation Plan of Action (NAPA) in the developing countries.

23/DEC/2016 at Prime Minister private office.
interviewer: Katsuhiko Matuura / Supervisor: Kyoko Kawasaka

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