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Anote Tong, President of the Republic of Kiribati, addresses the High-…

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Write 관리자 Date15-08-13 11:40 Hit2,658

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I bring to you all very warm greetings from the people of Kiribati, young and old, on whose behalf I am privileged to address this august body. In Kiribati we start all addresses by conferring blessings of peace and security on all those present so I would like to begin by saying to you all: 

“KAM NA BANE NI MAURI”


2015June29_UN_General_Assembly_High_Level_Event_on_ClimateChange_AnoteTong.jpg
 
Image Source : UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz 

High-level Event on Climate Change 
Anote Tong, President of the Republic of Kiribati, addresses the High-level Event on climate change. 
29 June 2015 
United Nations, New York 

I also wish to thank and commend you Mr President not only for the convening of this special high level event but for also placing a major focus and a high priority on climate change in your Presidency. For our Pacific region, mobilizing high-level political momentum for climate ambition is not an option, it is a necessity and we are therefore appreciative of your initiative to convene this high-level meeting. I also reiterate my deep appreciation to the Secretary General for his strong leadership and tireless efforts in catalysing global attention to climate change and for being the voice of those on the frontline, for countries like mine, for highlighting the existential challenge which requires not only global commitment but more importantly urgent global action. 

Mr President
The convening of this High Level meeting on climate change is especially timely. 2015 is a critical and defining year for humanity, an opportunity to make real and transformational changes, as we prepare for Addis Ababa, as we prepare for the Summit to adopt the Post 2015 Development Agenda, as we prepare for COP 21 in Paris and as we celebrate the 70th year of the United Nations. 

Mr President  
We need to ensure that climate change features prominently in all these multilateral processes. As leader of one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the adverse impacts of climate change, I have come here today to share yet again the profound evidence that we have seen and are experiencing on the impact of climate change on the ground. These together with IPCC projections are clear early warning signals of the larger scale and magnitude of the challenge yet to come from climate change. Our experiences together with events elsewhere clearly indicate that climate change is not a future scenario. It is happening now. And whilst we may be on the frontline today others will be next on the frontline. So this is the story that I am here to share yet again.

Mr President 
My people live on low lying atoll islands no higher than 3 meters above sea level. With the changes in our climate system, and with sea level rise, our islands are now facing major challenges never faced before in history. We have experienced climate extremes not only from sea level rise but by disaster events such as Cyclone Pam which hit Vanuatu and other low lying Pacific island, mine included, earlier this year followed soon after by Typhoons Maysak and Dolphin. King tides combined with strong winds, wrecked havoc to our islands, our homes, our villages and our people. What is alarming is the frequency and severity of such events to us. In some parts of the country, whole villages have had to relocate due to severe coastal erosion and flooding. Food crops have been destroyed and the fresh water lens (our source of drinking water) contaminated by the intruding sea water. And our people are worried as they watch these events grow in intensity. The most vulnerable are the already vulnerable, women, children, the disabled, the sick and the aged.
As a government we are constantly being swamped with requests for assistance from our communities and our people to address damage to homes, infrastructure and rehabilitation efforts valued at millions of dollars, millions that we do not have, and a cost that will only escalate in the future with the growing frequency and severity of these disasters. All these events have and will continue to put pressure on our already stressed national systems and limited national resources. For us and other low lying atoll countries like Tuvalu, Marshall Islands and Tokelau, we have to address the critical and pressing “here and now” challenges from climate change first, before we can even begin to talk of sustainable development.  

Mr President 
As someone who has been closely and actively involved for over a decade in highlighting the plight of my people from the adverse impacts of climate change, there have been times over the years that I have lost hope,  for there is a limit to how you can tell the same story over and over and over again.

It was this very desperation that led me to take our story from Kiribati to His Holiness Pope Francis in Rome early this year, an appeal from His Holiness’ flock on the frontline of the climate calamity, requesting that His Holiness lends his voice to this moral challenge to catalyse global action on this urgent survival challenge for humanity. The people of Kiribati  very much welcome and profoundly thank His Holiness for the Encyclical letter 
‘LAUDATO SI’ ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME. .   

Mr President 
It is most gratifying to note that there is an emerging glimmer of hope; that there is a “shift in the wind” in the dialogue on climate change. In addition to His Holiness’ voice, there have been messages and expressions of commitment from a growing number of quarters, from more capitals around the globe, and from civil society, recognising climate change as posing a major challenge and requiring urgent action. We from the frontline nations welcome this most gratifying “shift” as a very positive development in the right direction, that the international community has at last heard our messages and our shared stories of the plight of our people.

Mr. President,
How can our meeting today further contribute to this positive development and to the ongoing multilateral processes? For too long we have spoken of climate change as the most significant challenge of our time but what have we really done about it? While there is a glimmer of hope from the “shift in the wind”, the critical issue is to move from the acknowledgement of climate change as a challenge to DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT. We must continue to ask this question in each of the ongoing multilateral processes in 2015. What it is that we as a global community hope to achieve – and in doing so have we ensured that there is a future for the most vulnerable people and communities who are facing existential challenges from climate change. For this is the ultimate test, the real litmus test and the measure of relevance of these multilateral processes. 

Mr President
When our Secretary General visited us in Kiribati in 2012, a young Ikiribati boy stepped up shyly to the Secretary General and asked “what can you do to ensure that there is a future, there is a home and there is a country for us the children of Kiribati.” To be able to go back from a meeting such as this and be in a position to say to that child, and to our people "Do not worry anymore for we your leaders of the global community have made decisions to ensure that no matter how high the sea rises, no matter how severe and frequent the cyclones get, we have come up with technical solutions to raise our islands and homes and the required resources are available to ensure that all this will be in place before it is too late." Unfortunately, the Secretary General cannot respond just yet to that child in Kiribati and neither can we as leaders. The question is why not? And this is the real challenge Mr President. 
This meeting must therefore add to the voices of the vulnerable and call on the international community for an ambitious legally binding agreement that can begin to heal our one shared home and planet. It is no longer about who is to blame and what caused our climate system to change? It is about working together, within our capabilities, as good global citizens to urgently address a major challenge to our people and to our one and only home…our Planet Earth. We on the frontline of the climate calamity will do our part. But we cannot do it alone. It needs to be a collective global effort. 

Mr President 
The sad reality for those of us on the frontline is, no matter how ambitious the agreement reached in Paris is, it is not going to change things for us. For us on low lying coral atolls, it is already too late. I therefore call on this meeting to join our voice to ensure that the agreement in Paris must include a special mechanism to fast track urgent assistance for those countries in the frontline of climate change who need urgent assistance now. And just as we need to work together on saving our shared planet, we likewise need to work together to assist the more vulnerable for they cannot do it alone.

Mr President 
We call for new and accessible financial resources to assist the most vulnerable to adapt and build resilience to climate change.  Whilst it is commendable that there have been significant pledges for the Green Climate Fund, there remains the challenge of accessibility and the translation of these pledges into what and to where it matters the most. We welcome the assistance by the various agencies with the capacity to provide the needed conduit but it is equally important that such assistance does not get eroded in the process.

Mr President 
The challenge of climate change demands that we must think outside the bounds of conventional thinking, outside of the norm because these are extraordinary challenges which  call for extraordinary and unconventional solutions - uncharted territory!  We need to take bold steps even if we are not sure they are the right ones. If necessary we can improvise on the way. But whatever we do, we cannot afford to be paralysed into inaction simply because of the apparent impossibility of the challenge confronting us. Time is running out. And the current alternatives are not acceptable.

In Kiribati we have adopted a multipronged strategy to ensure the survival of our people. We have bought land offshore. We have looked at floating and artificial islands and options for raising our islands from their current height to maintain heights above the predicted sea-level rises. In addition, we have embarked on a program of migration with dignity. And why not? We do not have a long list of options.

We are reconciled to the reality that whatever measures we take to remain above the rising seas and more severe weather conditions, our islands will not be able to accommodate the current level of population for we do not have the scale of resources required to raise all our islands and it does not seem likely that the level of resources needed will be forthcoming - not unless there is a radical change in global thinking and commitment. 

In spite of our expressed desire never to leave our homelands, such a wish would not be achievable without the availability of the technical capacity and resources needed to undertake the necessary adaptation measures. Prudent and timely allocation of the resources available under the Green Climate Fund is therefore imperative. Otherwise mass migration would become unavoidable, compounding the already existing international mass migration crisis.  

Mr President,
We must believe that as we celebrate the 70th Anniversary of this United Family of Nations, no member nation should be in a position where they have to plan on their own for a time when their people will no longer have a country and a place they can call home. It will not do simply to say and acknowledge that climate change is an existential challenge. It is about our response to it as a global community of moral human beings. 

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen,
So what is it that we expect to come out of this high level climate event? The answer is simple – ACTION; action that would guarantee that the future of our global community and our planet Earth will be secured; action that guarantees that no one will be left behind and most importantly, urgent action to address existential challenges from climate change for the most vulnerable in frontline states.
After all, the real test of the effectiveness and relevance of the many ongoing multilateral processes in 2015 and indeed of the United Family of Nations in its 70th year, is in ensuring that no-one is left behind. Yet those of us on the frontline face the real possibility of being left behind.

Mr President
Later today the Pacific Small Island Developing States will be holding a side event on “Building durable and Sustainable Partnerships to combat climate change.” I urge you to join us and hear more of these challenges and the opportunities for partnership with the frontline nations in our Pacific region.
Let me conclude Mr President by sharing with you all our traditional Kiribati blessings of Te Mauri, Te Raoi, aoTe Tabomoa. May health peace and prosperity be with us all.
Thank you.


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Image Source : UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe 

Secretary-General Meets President of Kiribati 
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) meets with Anote Tong, President of the Republic of Kiribati. 
31 July 2015 
United Nations, New York 


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