Tuvalu rep in Copenhagen spawns unprecedented walk-out | Pacific Beat

Tuvalu rep in Copenhagen spawns unprecedented walk-out

Tuvalu rep in Copenhagen spawns unprecedented walk-out

Posted 10 December 2009, 10:14 AEDT

Tuvalu has caused quite a stir at the UN climate change talks in Copenhagen with the island's representative pleading with delegates to come up with a legally binding agreement, then in an unprecedented move stormed-out, closing the session until the afternoon.

Tuvalu's call comes as divisions between the countries attending the Copenhagen talks deepen. Its representative, Ian Fry, called for an amendment which would potentially force deeper global emission cuts and lead to other developing countries - rather than just rich nations - having to make those cuts.

It divided those attending the daily Conference of Parties and forced the chair to call recess.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: Protestors of environmental organisations Tck Tck Tck, Greenpeace and 350.org; Ian Fry, Tuvalu representative at the UN climate change talks; Selwin Hart, Barbados representative; Ashwini Prabha, Fijian environmental activist

COUTTS: Tuvalu has caused quite a stir at the UN climate change talks in Copenhagen. The island's representative pleaded with delegates to come up with a legally-binding agreement, that divided those attending the daily Conference of Parties and forced the chair to call a recess. Here's what happened outside:

PROTESTERS: Tuvalu survival. Tuvalu survival. Tuvalu survival.

COUTTS: That's an impromptu protest held by the environmental organisations Tck Tck Tck, Greenpeace and 350.org. They were backing Tuvalu's calls for a legally binding treaty to be agreed upon by the end of the Copenhagen conference.

Tuvalu's call comes as divisions between the countries attending the Copenhagen talks deepen. Earlier this week a working document was leaked that reportedly showed the Danish government's plans to call for the end of the Kyoto Protocol. The proposal has been informally supported by many of the developed industralised nations attending the talks, but it's been staunchly opposed by the small island nations and many developing countries who want to see an immediate reduction in carbon emissions.

Tuvalu's representative called for an amendment which would have the advantage of potentially forcing deeper global emission cuts that could lead to other developing countries, rather than just rich nations, having to make those cuts. Here's part of the speech that has generated so much attention:

FRY: Tuvalu being one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the impacts of climate change is honoured and pleased to speak on this agenda item. Our future rests on the outcome of this meeting. As parties are aware, Tuvalu has proposed a legally binding protocol to be incorporated under the COP (Conference of Parties). This protocol is not a replacement of the Kyoto Protocol. We believe it should compliment the ongoing Kyoto Protocol. We have proposed amendments to the Kyoto Protocol to make this clear. Our protocol proposal follows closely the elements of the Bali Action Plan. It has a section on shared vision. It highlights the importance that actions to address climate change must aim to ensure that global temperature increases are well below 1.5 degrees celsius and that greenhouse gas concentrations must stabilise at 350 parts per million, at the most. Our survival is contingent on these numbers. It's a matter of survival.

COUTTS: Tuvalu's representative, Ian Fry, speaking at the Copenhagen climate change talks.

Tuvalu was immediately supported by other small island states, including Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago and several African states. Barbados' representative had this to say:

HART: No island state has ever called for the abolition of the Kyoto Protocol. In fact we have been staunchest defenders of the Kyoto Protocol and the maintenance of two separate tracks. We are therefore surprised to hear in the plenary of the conference of the parties so much about the Kyoto Protocol. Madam Chair, we continue to support the position made by our distinguished colleague from Tuvalu. We believe that given the importance of this issue, the fact that we're discussing the legal form of the outcome, that we should not simply hold consultations but we should in an open and transparent manner establish a contact group so that the various proposals on the table can be discussed in an open and transparent manner.

COUTTS: Barbados' representative at the UN Climate Change talks, Selwin Hart, backing Tuvalu's request for a legally binding commitment to reduce carbon emissions.

But one aspect of Tuvalu's proposal has become a major sticking point for delegates. It could lead to other developing countries, rather than just rich nations, having to commit to cutting carbon emissions. In all the amendment to the proposal was opposed by 15 countries, including the powerful nations of China, Saudi Arabia and India. It was suggested that the issue be discussed further, but that's something that Tuvalu's representative was not willing to accept.

FRY: We cannot accept any sort of informal consultation process even to consult on how to consult. Madam President this is a fundamental issue and we implore you to give this the appropriate and formal treatment that it deserves. And we would consider that this COP should be suspended and no further considerations of any agenda items until this item is properly considered, thank you.

COUTTS: Tuvalu's representative speaking in Copenhagen. He then led a group of developing countries in a walk-out causing an unprecedented closure of the conference for a few hours.

Outside about two to three-hundred environmental activists staged an impromptu rally in support of Tuvalu's proposal, and this young Fijian woman was moved to make this speech:

PRABHA: I'm a Fijian. I come from the Pacific Island countries, which are at the forefront of climate impacts every day. Either it's our corals bleaching, our coasts are eroding, all our agriculture is are affected. We are affected. Our daily lives are affected by climate change. So basically I'm here to tell the developed countries not to sit on their comfy couches; not to be ignorant to the issues out there and to provide the space here at the UNFCC to openly discuss the proposal from Tuvalu and from the other countries. A treaty that is fair and a treaty that helps us survive.

COUTTS: Ashwini Prabha, a young Fijian environmental activist addressing protestors outside the Copenhagen Climate Change talks.

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