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Leaders of Island Nations Make Passionate Speeches Calling for Deal in Paris

LEADERS from some of the world’s smallest and most vulnerable states have made moving pleas on the world stage on behalf of the people most affected by climate change.

“Just imagine you are in my shoes,” said Tuvalu’s Prime Minister, Enele Sosene Sopoaga to leaders at the UN in Paris on Monday.

“I believe no leader in this room carries such a level of worry and responsibility. No leader … can say the total of his territory and all citizens will disappear if we allow temperature increase of 1.5 degrees.

“That’s what our appeal is, simply to ask that the future of our children be assured.”

While 150 world leaders each delivered speeches designed to inspire their delegations to come to an agreement that will limit global warming at the opening of COP21, few were as impassioned as the leaders of the low-lying coastal states and atolls threatened with oblivion should sea levels rise.

“We stand on a cliff edge, either we stand united ... or we all stumble and fall and condemn humanity to a tragic future,” Mr Sopoanga said. “Any further temperature increase will spell the total demise of Tuvalu with all our fundamental rights of survival.”

It was a message echoed by leaders throughout the Pacific who have contributed the least to global warming but have the most to lose. They are pushing for a maximum 1.5 degree increase by 2100 rather than the proposed two degrees, saying it could be a matter of life or death for their population.

“Everything I know and everyone I love is in the hands of all of us, gathered here today,” said Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak, whose country reaches just two metres above the water line in some places.

“We are already limping from climate disaster to climate disaster, and we know, the worst is yet to come,” he said as he presented a petition signed by 3.6 million people calling for action.

“My country is in its hour of need. Like any other country we cannot and we will not go along with an argument that signs our sovereignty away.”

Kiribati’s President Anote Tong used his moment in the spotlight to call for a global moratorium on new coal mines.

His country is one of those deemed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to be threatened with “partial or virtually total inundation” along with the aforementioned two, Tonga, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Cook Islands, Antigua and Nevis (in the Caribbean Sea); and the Maldives (in the Indian Ocean).

“The future of people, men, women and children …. hangs in the balance and we must not remain indecisive on the way forward,” he said while also thanking Fiji for promising to accommodate climate refugees from his country.

“For those of us whose very survival is at stake, our plea is very simple. Let us not pay lip service to an issue that demands immediate and urgent action.”

The Alliance of Small Island States, made up of 44 coastal and low lying islands, is calling for a Paris agreement that will limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. They also want a loss and damages clause in the final deal that will allow small states compensation for the devastating impacts of cyclones and weather-related events that occur.

Nauru’s President Baron D. Waqa also made his case, saying while small island communities were the first to pay the price, “the list on the ledger is very long”.

“But we have a choice. We can pay in human misery or we can [pay] by seriously investing in a more equitable … future,” he said.




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