Cross-posted from the Wonk Room.
Last week, Ian Fry, the Tuvalu delegate to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, made an impassioned plea for legally binding agreements to be made by world leaders to save his nation and other low-lying island states. The tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu and other small island states have proposed a new treaty to protect these nations. Fry noted that 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”:
It appears that we are waiting for some senators in the U.S. 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.
The New York Times explains the “obstacles” that the Senate poses for Obama. The Tuvaluan delegate suggested that President Obama earn his “rightly or wrongly”-awarded Nobel Peace Prize by addressing climate change, “the greatest threat to humanity.” Tearfully, he concluded: “The fate of my country rests in your hands.” The U.S. representative, Jonathan Pershing, spoke a few minutes later, but “didn’t respond directly to Tuvalu’s plea.”
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.