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Small Islands Invoke Walesa at climate talks

on November 20, 2013

Opening Statement of the High Level Segment COP-19 / CMP- 9  delivered by H.E. Baron Waqa, President of Nauru, on behalf of
 the Alliance of Small Island States
Thank you Mr. President.

Congratulations on your assumption of the Presidency. I would like to take this opportunity to express our deep appreciation for the hospitality you and the people of Warsaw have shown during our visit.

I have the honor to speak on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, which represents 44 low-lying island and coastal countries around the world that are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Mr. President,

When COP 19 opened last week, reports of the destruction in the Philippines caused by Super-Typhoon Haiyan—one of the strongest storms in history—were just beginning to trickle in.

We can now see the shocking scale of human tragedy that resulted, and are only beginning to appreciate the enormous recovery effort that lies ahead.

Though little was mentioned in the media, our member states of Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia were hit by the storm as it gathered strength on its path to the Philippines, and only narrowly escaped its full wrath. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims.

Thus, I feel obliged to remind the world that without immediate action to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change, we can expect more record storms, a devastating rise in sea level, more droughts, and more lives needlessly lost.

Mr. President,

The challenges we face from climate change are unprecedented, and there are no simple answers or quick fixes that will solve the crisis. A lasting solution demands that we work harder to honestly reconcile our diverse interests, and that won’t be easy.

Yet I am optimistic we will succeed. I am filled with hope because humans are endowed with a remarkable will to persevere against all odds. We can see it now in those devastated communities in the Philippines, Palau, and FSM and it characterized the Solidarity union, which formed in Polish shipyards not far from here.

Lech Walesa, the leader of the Solidarity movement went on to become the President of this great country and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1983.

His acceptance remarks delivered on his behalf by his wife still ring true for the victims of climate change and other vulnerable groups:

Quote, “We respect the dignity and the rights of every man and every nation. The path to a brighter future of the world leads through honest reconciliation of the conflicting interests and not through hatred and bloodshed. To follow that path means to enhance the moral power of the all-embracing idea of human solidarity. I feel happy and proud that over the past few years this idea has been so closely connected with the name of my homeland.” End quote.

Mr. President,

Adequately responding to the challenge of climate change is at its root about safeguarding the rights of every person and every nation. And, for the people of many small islands, it is about ensuring the survival of their homelands. AOSIS has put forward sensible proposals on Loss and Damage and under the Durban Platform of Action (ADP) for greater near-term ambition, which are commensurate with the scale of the challenge we face.

Yet many of the countries most responsible for climate change are retreating from their moral responsibility and obligation to act. Consequently, we are lacking the urgent ambition required to lower emissions in the short time we have to avert catastrophe; we are missing the clarity on finance that is needed to realise our mitigation opportunities and prepare vulnerable communities for impacts that have become impossible to avoid; and we are missing the all-embracing idea of human solidarity that underpins the concept of Loss and Damage.

Let no nation be forgotten. We hope that here in Warsaw we can revive the enduring spirit of humanity to show we care enough to create a brighter future for our children and grandchildren. Once again the world is looking to Poland for leadership.

Thank you.

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