'Only if the right actions are taken will we survive' - Tuvalu PM issues call to save his country from extinction - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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'Only if the right actions are taken will we survive' - Tuvalu PM issues call to save his country from extinction

Thursday, 10 December 2009
Tuvalu may be a small, low-lying country, but it is certainly determined to stand up tall to defend itself and its own existence.

The country's Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia (below) appeared before members of the Parliament's Committee on Development (DEVE) today to discuss the impact of climate change and its effects on Small Island Developing States.

H.E. Apisai Ielemia, Prime Minister of the State of Tuvalu by ajburgess, on Flickr

Tuvalu is certainly qualifies as a small state - the collection of islands in the Pacific Ocean cumulatively account for 10 square miles of land area making it the third smallest state in the world, larger only than the Vatican City and Monaco.

Furthermore, the islands are called home by just short of 12,000 people - a number more than two times inferior than the number of people currently employed at the European Commission...

Tuvalu Map Illustration - click to enlargeAt its highest point, the country is only a little over four metres above sea-level and in places the island measures less than one mile from coast to coast. As a result successive Tuvaluan leaders have stated that their state will be the first victim of the rising sea level associated with global warming.

Despite their small size, they are making their message heard in a big way. Yesterday, their representative caused disruption to proceedings at the important UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen with what is now being referred to as the Tuvalu Proposal.

This proposal envisages deeper cuts in global emissions than those that are currently under discussion, demands the global temperature rise be limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius rather than 2 degrees currently being touted and that any agreement reached will be legally binding.

"We want a legally binging agreement," Mr Ielemia told MEPs. "All countries must make concrete pledges to reducing the effects of climate change".

Mr Ielemia spoke of the efforts his country is making to build up its natural defences and do its part in reducing emissions "even though they are tiny compared to those of other countries", and explicitly outright dismissed the possibility of any future resettlement of Tuvalu people.

"While Tuvalu faces an uncertain future because of climate change," he said, "it is our view that Tuvaluans will remain in Tuvalu."

"We will fight to keep our country, our culture and our way of living. We are not considering any migration scheme. We believe if the right actions are taken to address climate change, Tuvalu will survive."

The low-lying but largest atoll of Tuvalu, Funafuti, which could vanish if the 'right action is not taken soon'

Michael Cashman (S&D, UK), in response to Mr Ielemia's plea, said "we need a commitment of funds, not just words at Copenhagen."

"This reminder of the impacts of climate change could not come at a better time" he said. "You will not fight alone. We will fight with you".

Maurice Ponga (EPP, FR) spoke about the ever-present need to raise MEPs' awareness of the "daily crisis facing people on these islands", saying "let us find the funding so that the people of Tuvalu do not have to move."

Charles Goerens (ALDE, LU) argued that funding for fighting climate change should not be sent instead of existing Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitments. "Funding for fighting climate change should be allocated in addition. The existing money for development is already insufficient and we risk not meeting the Millennium Developments Goals", he said.

Noting that Tuvalu had recently come top in the "Happy Planet Index", which measures the well-being of nations while taking account of their environmental impact, Isabelle Lövin (SE) on behalf of the Greens/EFA group said that "industrialised countries have to learn a lot from islands like Tuvalu about good living and the way of using our resources."

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