Delivered by His Excellency Honourable Baron Divavesi Waqa M.P., President of the Republic of Nauru and Chair of the Alliance of Small Island
Su Excelencia, Presidenté de la República, Señor Ollanta Humala, Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates:
Nauru has the honour to speak on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States.
At the outset, allow me to congratulate you on your assumption of the presidency, and thank the Government and the People of the Peru for their warm reception and diligent preparations for this meeting. Let me assure you of our support and constructive engagement as we work to ensure a successful outcome here in Lima.
Over two decades ago, recognizing the danger of unrestrained greenhouse gas emissions, we joined together as an international community to establish this body. It seems hard to believe in these contentious times, but back then the notion that climate change was a building crisis with potentially catastrophic consequences was not controversial. The facts were so compelling—even in those early days—that it seemed a matter of common sense to take the action required.
Nor was the idea that those with the greatest responsibility for creating the problem—and the greatest capabilities to implement solutions—would take the lead in doing so.
We further acknowledged that developing countries, particularly the most vulnerable would need help building renewable energy sources in order to avoid the high-carbon development pathways taken by our partners and to adapt to the unavoidable consequences of climate change as well.
So we set out, not to slow, not to delay, but to prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system.
Perhaps those were days when global cooperation was seen as a way to advance, not hinder, national interests. But we learned soon enough that scientific evidence alone cannot transform old ways of thinking and ossified structures of power. For, even as the facts became impossible to ignore, they were greeted with delay, if not willful ignorance and denial.
More concerning, though, is the distressing complacency toward the human suffering exacted by climate change we witness today.
This is my second Conference of the Parties since being elected President of Nauru. My first was last year—at the same time Typhoon Haiyan skirted some of my low-lying Pacific neighbors, before unleashing its full wrath on the Philippines. We learned only last week that the country is recovering from yet another ferocious storm. One would think that the image of a desperate mother wading through chest-deep water in search of her children is impossible to ignore. Yet, we do, or push thoughts that are too much to bear out of our minds, because we are humans and that is what humans do.
And as humans we are also apt to put off hard decisions for another day; sometimes until it is too late.
A few weeks ago, our partners, the United States and China, announced new plans to address their carbon emissions in the coming years; just days later, a number of countries made substantial pledges to the Green Climate Fund.
Further, in many markets today, the cost of renewable energy has fallen below that of dirty fossil fuels, just as many of us from the SIDS forecast..
All the while, scientists tell us that we have about five years for emissions to peak and drop dramatically to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, including the total inundation of some of my closest neighbors.
I ask, therefore, if now is not the time to do what is necessary to address climate change, then when is?
The past decades have affirmed that we are capable of inflicting terrible harm on Creation. But it is not too late to reclaim our responsibility to be good stewards of the land, sea, atmosphere, and, yes, each other.
So what does responsible stewardship in the age of climate change look like?
First, it means leading by example. I am proud to report that my country has adopted the amendments to the Kyoto Protocol and many others in our group have done so as well. SIDS also have committed to some of the most ambitious emissions reductions in the world.
Second, to give the most vulnerable among us a fighting chance, emissions must come down almost immediately. The discussions for near-term emissions cuts under Workstream 2 can help us do just that and we look forward to seeing a strong decision for this solutions-oriented approach by week’s end.
Third, we face a generational challenge with climate change and we must build a common understanding of how iNDCs will collectively prevent warming above the 1.5 degrees threshold, which for many of us means the difference between life and death.
Finally, after two decades of denial, delay, and willful ignorance, there have been losses and damages that can no longer be mitigated or adapted to. We urge Parties to build a credible Loss and Damage mechanism once and for all.
It has been nearly a quarter century since we started this effort; the political momentum is as strong as it will ever be; I urge you to seize this opportunity before it slips into the abyss.