Hon. Enele Sopoanga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu

Interview of Prime Minister of Tuvalu

What is your expectation for COP22?

I understand COP22 is a really important meeting. It is the first COP after the Paris Agreement entering into force and will be the milestone for the world to achieve the long-term temperature goal. I know we didn’t have enough time to set down rules and procedures to implement Paris Agreement. All negotiators including Tuvalu recognize that we need to set those rules down and agree procedures at COP22. If we don’t fix this step, we will never advance to next step. Paris Agreement is a universal agreement. So, we need to work together and to implement together. Especially, we must work hard to reduce our contribution of GHGs to reach the target of 1.5 degrees. Moreover, we need to help countries like Pacific island States including Tuvalu, Caribbean, Indian ocean, and African island States that are already suffering from salt damage because of the sea level rising, salt damage. The mountainous countries like Switzerland are also suffering from the impact of climate change. They need help as well. So, all Parties needs to works together to reduce GHGs. In Marrakesh, we must get an agreement on rule and procedure for implementation of Paris Agreement and move forward. And, we have to review our actions and enhance them. We should not forget about the long-term goal that we have to achieve. Otherwise, Paris Agreement will be an agreement without actions.

What do you request for other countries to implement Paris Agreement?

Many countries including pacific island States will ratify Paris Agreement. But the contributions of those countries for GHGs emissions are very small. Therefore, I want to encourage big GHGs emitting countries like United States of America, China, India, New Zealand, EU, and Canada who have already ratified Paris Agreement to implement it to achieve the long-term goal. I expect that these countries will demonstrate a very strong leadership. We can’t go back. We have to take this opportunity to move forward. This is the time to take actions. I strongly believe that everybody will come on board.

Please give message to countries have not ratified Paris Agreement

87 Parties have already ratified of 197 Parties to the Convention (as of October 5th 2016). And the agreement will enter into force on November 4th. I believe that the countries that have not ratified Paris Agreement will display their strong leadership. I know those countries need more time to adjust. I encourage those countries to ratify Paris Agreement soon. It is clear that they will have more disadvantages if they do not ratify the agreement.

What else do we need to do for Tuvalu’s future?

Although Paris Agreement is not perfect, it will be a vehicle or road map to protect and to save people of the world. In addition, people who are displaced by the impact of climate change need a legal framework to protect their human rights and security, which we do not have now. Not only sea level rise, but also cyclone, drought, and flooding are getting severer and more frequent, especially people who live in the atoll nations like us need it.

Some people argue that those people can be covered under the 1951 refugee(1) convention. However, I totally disagree. First of all, people who are displaced from sea level rise such as like us, Tuvaluan, are not determined as refugee under the Refugee Convention. Second, I will never accept Tuvalu people will be called as refugees.

We do not want to leave our sweet home island because of the impacts of climate change that are caused by industrialized countries.

They can’t force us to be refugees. We, Tuvaluan try to implement Paris Agreement. At COP22, we agree on rules and procedures to implement Paris Agreement as fist step and clear the pathway to achieve 1.5 long-term temperature goal.

Although it is touch and difficult path, I believe that we can achieve it together. At the same time, we work hard to develop a legal framework to ensure the human right and security of people who are displaced by the impacts of climate change. I have already proposed to adopt a UN Resolution on the establishment of a legal framework to ensure the human rights protection and security for people displaced by the impact of climate change at UN General Assembly this year. I hope we can get a wide support from international community.

20/OCT/2016 at Prime Minister private office.
interviewer: Katsuhiko Matuura / Supervisor: Kyoko Kawasaka

More Tuvalu information below

(1) In general, “Refugee” is defined as the people who are across border and seek asylum in other county. However, according to the 1951 Refugee Convention’s definition on “Refugee” that are stated under article 1, people displaced cross border by climate change and natural disaster is not “refugee”. Therefore, there are no people called “Environmental Refugee” or “Climate Refugee”.  

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