Tuvalu Negotiator Delivers a Tear-Jerking Call for the Toughest Climate Treaty at Copenhagen

Earlier this week, Ian Fry, the lead negotiator for the small island nation of Tuvalu -- one of a handful of countries severely threatened by climate change -- called for the strongest of possible agreements: a legally-binding treaty that would demand developed countries help bring atmospheric CO2 down to 350 ppm. It's a bold demand that the US and other developed countries will not accept, and which developing countries, bent on a renewal of Kyoto, also reject. Today he delievered a speech that, according to Jamie at 350.org, "had delegates from around the world in tears." Here's a rough transcription from the Wonk Room:


The entire population of Tuvalu lives below two meters above sea level. The highest point above sea level in the entire nation of Tuvalu is only four meters.

Madam President, we are not naive to the circumstances and the political considerations that are before us. It appears that we are waiting for some senators in the US Congress to conclude before we can consider this issue properly. It is an irony of the modern world that the fate of the world is being determined by some senators in the U.S. Congress.

We note that President Obama recently went to Norway to pick up a Nobel Prize, rightly or wrongly. But we can suggest that for him to honor this Nobel Prize, he should address the greatest threat to humanity that we have before us, climate change, and the greatest threat to security, climate change. So I make a strong plea that we give proper consideration to a conclusion at this meeting that leads to two legally binding agreements.

Madame President, this is not just an issue of Tuvalu. Pacific island countries -- Kiribas, Marshall Islands, Maldives, Haiti, Bahamas, Grenada -- Sao Tome in West Africa and all the LDCs: Bhutan, Laos, Mali, Senegal, Timor-Leste -- and millions of other people around this world are affected enormously by climate change.

This is not just Tuvalu.

Over the last few days I've received calls from all over the world, offering faith and hope that we can come to a meaningful conclusion on this issue. Madame President, this is not a ego trip for me. I have refused to undertake media interviews, because I don't think this is just an issue of an ego trip for me. I am just merely a humble and insignificant employee of the environment department of the government of Tuvalu. As a humble servant of the government of Tuvalu, I have to make a strong plea to you that we consider this matter properly. I don't want to cause embarrassment to you or the government. But I want to have this issue to be considered properly.

I clearly want to have the leaders put before them an option for considering a legally binding treaty to sign on at this meeting. I make this a strong and impassioned plea. We've had our proposal on the table for six months. Six months, it's not the last two days of this meeting. I woke this morning, and I was crying, and that's not easy for a grown man to admit. The fate of my country rests in your hands.

Though the EU just announced it would pledge $3.6 billion a year until 2012 to a short-term fund for poor countries, a draft agreement sent around Friday to the 192-nation conference set no firm figures on financing or on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The provisional text calls for emissions reductions by a wide range -- 50 percent to 95 percent by 2050 -- and asks rich countries to cut emissions by 25 to 40 percent by 2020, both against 1990 levels.

Todd Stern, the special U.S. climate envoy who earlier this week balked at developing countries' demands for what he referred to as "reparations," called the text "constructive" but said the section on helping developing nations lower their growth of CO2 was "unbalanced." Because the requirements on industrial countries were tougher than on developing nations, he said the section was not "a basis for negotiation."

The next few days will tell whether negotiations can yield something more than tears and tough talk.

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