Statement by Prime Minister Hon Apisai Ielemia at the Asia-Pacific Greens Forum in Taiwan

May, 2010


Distinguished delegates

Ladies & Gentlemen

What next after Copenhagen?

It is a pleasure to be speaking at this Forum. It is particularly a pleasure to be attending this Forum in Taiwan. My government has very close relations with the Government of Taiwan and I am very pleased to be here, particularly as the President of Taiwan recently visited Tuvalu.

Before getting into the discussion on “what next after Copenhagen”, I want to explain why, in my view, Copenhagen was a failure. Firstly, I was extremely disappointed with the low level of ambition presented by the Danish Government in Copenhagen. It was extraordinary to think that the Danish Government issued a draft “Copenhagen Accord” on the weekend prior to the start of the Conference of Parties. This draft “accord” basically said that there would be no outcome in Copenhagen. Imagine how the115 Heads of State felt when they heard that the Danish Government did not want a real outcome.

My government came to Copenhagen with a view that it was possible to have a legally binding outcome at the COP. We had prepared two legal texts 6 months prior to Copenhagen and we expected to have a thoughtful and reasoned discussion on these two texts. The first text was a proposal for a series of amendments to the Kyoto Protocol to allow it to continue beyond the first commitment period. The second text proposal was a new legally binding instrument to embrace mitigation commitments from the United States and large

emitting developing countries plus important legally binding aspects relating to adaptation to the impacts of climate change and insurance arrangements for countries affected by the impacts of climate change. We also had provisions relating to reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, new funding arrangements and new arrangement for technology transfer. In all we proposed a comprehensive package to accelerate action on climate change.

To our dismay we were not even permitted to discuss these proposals.

The second tragedy at the COP was the Copenhagen Accord. This is a fundamentally flawed document and should not have been presented to the COP for adoption. It was hastily put together and the content of the document reflects this fact.

But before I get into the detail of the Accord we need to ask why were we presented with this document? In my mind, the answer is simple. The United States had nothing to bring to Copenhagen to advance negotiations on climate change. Their own domestic climate change legislation was stalled in the Senate and without that legislation President Obama could not deliver any new proposals. Tragically, the largest per capita emitter in the world, the largest overall emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in the world and the only major developed country that had not ratified the Kyoto Protocol had nothing to bring to the negotiating table in Copenhagen. So, in an attempt to cover over the lack of action by the US, the Copenhagen Accord was hastily crafted. It was a document for domestic consumption in the Unite States. President Obama needed the Accord to take back home and show his Senators that major developing countries were willing to address climate change. That was the political motivation behind the Accord.

Hastily put together, the Accord contains numerous significant problems. Firstly it makes reference to a “below 2 deg C” ambition for peaking of global

temperatures. Recent science tells us that a global temperature peak of around 2 degrees is likely to cause Tuvalu to disappear under the sea. I was certainly not going to sign on to a document that would spell the end of Tuvalu.

The next major flaw was the linking of funding for adaptation to the impacts of climate change with compensation for countries who may suffer a loss of revenue from oil exports. Look closely at the text and you will see the words “response measures”. This is code for compensation for oil producers. This is shameful.

The next significant fault in the Accord is that it effectively abandons the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol is the only international legal agreement that binds industrialised countries to emission reduction targets. Abandoning the Kyoto Protocol would have been a major step backwards.

Furthermore, the Accord makes no mention of an international insurance mechanism. Tuvalu and many other Small Island Developing States had worked hard over a number of years to put forward a proposal on insurance for countries affected by climate change. This proposal had completely disappeared.

There are a number of other problems, but the issues I have already listed are reason enough to reject this document.

Despite the fact that the Accord was not adopted by the COP, there has been enormous political pressure to get countries to sign up to it. We have seen statements from the US saying they will not fund action on climate change unless countries sign up to the Accord. This sort of bullying is unacceptable. We have come under pressure from a variety of countries, but we have managed to resist. I simply will not sign up to document that spells the end of my country.

So where do we go from here? Clearly we must return to the negotiating process that we had already established under the two Ad Hoc Working Groups. This is the proper UN process for addressing a global outcome on climate change. We must first concentrate on reinvigorating the Kyoto Protocol. This is an important first step. We must ensure that current Parties to the Protocol set ambitious targets for the next commitment period. This is important to give us certainty for the future. I would hope that we could use the next COP in Cancun, Mexico as the place where the international community renewed its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol. This is where the various Green Parties can play a significant role. You must use your political connections to push for this outcome. The United Kingdom government has recently signalled that it will support the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol. The rest of Europe should follow, along with all the other Annex I Parties. Then we should open the door for other advanced economies, like South Korea, Mexico and Singapore to sign on to Kyoto.

The next step is clearly the most difficult – getting the US to take substantial, internationally verifiable action on climate change. It must commit to significant emission reduction targets under an international agreement equivalent to the Kyoto Protocol. Of course it would be much simpler if the US ratified the Kyoto Protocol but it appears that they have abandoned this idea completely. President Obama must be encouraged to use his executive powers to sign on to a proper emission reduction agreement that sets targets for immediate action, not sometime well into the future.

Once President Obama takes this action, I am sure others will follow. The major emitting developing countries should then agree to undertake nationally appropriate mitigation actions. This is what we had envisaged with the new legal agreement we had proposed prior to Copenhagen. We will continue to

push for this and hopefully we will see this agreed upon at COP 17 in South Africa. Unfortunately I cannot see this happening any sooner.

As part of the new agreement on climate change we envisage a new regime for adaptation. This should include new funding arrangements to meet the urgent needs of the most vulnerable countries, like Tuvalu. As I mentioned earlier, we also need an international insurance mechanism to help vulnerable poor countries rebuild from the impacts of climate change.

While the UN process must continue, I also believe that the international community must take significant steps to properly engage civil society. It was very evident in Copenhagen that the ideas and aspirations of civil society were far more advanced than what most governments were willing to commit to. We must draw on this enthusiasm, inspiration and willingness to act. It is important that we establish a series of public forums where civil society can bring forward its ideas and interact with governments and the private sector. We have to create a master plan for our future.

Hopefully forums like this one will provide the inspiration and avenues for greater public engagement.

To conclude, we are at a critical time in human history. So much depends on the action we take now to address climate change. My country’s future is everyone’s future. Let us unite and work together to create a sustainable and green world.

I thank you.

Tuvalu mo te Atua 


Taiwan Friends of the Global Greens