Third Conference of the Parties
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Kyoto, Japan, December 9, 1997
MR PRESIDENT, distinguished Heads of State, honorable Ministers, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen:
I come here today to sound a note of sadness and indignation at the state of these negotiations. But first, I should put my remarks in context.
The period of my country’s emergence into membership in the community of Nations coincides roughly with the timeframe when Mankind began to take seriously the threat of human-induced, adverse effects upon the Earth’s climate. In those days, we in Micronesia were focused on our political development, and did not yet know that our first external challenge would be to fight for the very ground on which our ancestors lived.
For several centuries our people endured occupation and wartime destruction at the hands of others, for the sake of interests not our own. Now, we are confronted by the fact that the industrial powers have yet another, and this time permanent’ annihilation to visit upon us. More shocking still, the instrument of this destruction – a helpless agent of the developed world, is to be the Ocean – the Mother of our culture – our Provider.
And so, throughout our greater community of small islands, the bright promise of new nationhood has been overshadowed from the outset by a grim and gathering drumbeat of unfamiliar terms such as “climate change,” “global warming,” “greenhouse gases” and “sea-level rise.”
The Preamble to the Constitution of the Federated States of Micronesia states that the oceans do not separate us, rather, they bind us together. That statement applies not only to islanders but to the World as a whole. It has particular relevance to our common objective of protecting the global climate. We are all islanders, bonded together by the seas. The oceans symbolize not isolation, hut togetherness. I fear, however, that we have lost sight of that important reality.
As I stand here today, the nations of the World luxuriate in a mixed scientific and intellectual debate over climate change, which sounds all-too-much like the never-ending North/South economic discussion, in a different venue. But, from the viewpoint of ourselves in Micronesia and others throughout the region of the Pacific islands, and of islanders around the World, we must deal with the challenge of global climate change in a more urgent sense, that is, in terms of our cultural and geographic mortality.
Our capacity for defense against climate change, unaided, is limited within the short-term, and probably hopeless in the long run. But the worst of it is that if insufficient action is taken to secure the Convention’s Objective, the islands cannot even usefully serve as the canary in the coal mine. By the time our islands become the first casualties it will be too late for the rest of the World to avoid its own subsequent devastation.
By necessity, my country is a veteran of this process. having participated from the beginning. Throughout’ we have made common cause with like-minded countries through membership in the Group of 77 and China, and the Alliance of Small Island States. We have spoken constantly and consistently, at every INC and at previous Conferences of the Parties, of the urgent necessity for significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by the developed world.
Two years ago, the Berlin Mandate gave us strong hope that we would arrive in Kyoto to adopt a pre-negotiated, legally binding instrument amounting to a serious first step on a path of emissions reductions by developed countries, consistent with the clearly-expressed principles of the Framework Convention. That is what was mandated. But now, a cold chill of doubt saps our previous faith in the will of the developed country parties to follow through, even in their own interests – not to mention their treaty commitments.
The circumstance that confronts us here today threatens to render quite meaningless all the apparent progress made in previous meetings. It is nothing less than unconscionable that in the face of scientific consensus’ and after years of work pursuant to binding treaty commitments, the developing countries at Kyoto are met with a gun to our head – to be told that in order to have the developed countries accept the most lukewarm limitation targets aimed more at non-intrusiveness than at the Convention’s Objective, we must step outside the Mandate, and through some undefined process, take on commitments that the Mandate expressly forbids. We are left to wonder whether there was ever any serious commitment to the Berlin Mandate.
You may think, Mr. President, that we, and our developing country partners are being politically unrealistic, or worse, that we seek to impose Draconian measures on the developed world while expecting a free ride That is certainly the thrust of recent media campaigns by some of our wealthy adversaries. But this false suggestion should be laid to rest.
First of all, the developing countries have never attempted to opt out of commitments toward achieving the Convention’s Objective. The Framework Convention itself sets forth obligations for developing countries, which are being met. Second, irrespective of the Convention, the major developing countries that seem to be the focus of future concern are already taking very significant actions unilaterally to curie the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. These measures are documented in papers made available to this Conference. There is no “free ride” mentality here.
Finally, it has always been, and remains the position of my country that we will join others in finding how we, as a small-island developing State, can best fit into the worldwide effort to overcome the threat of global warming as we develop socially and economically. We will do our part. But never forget that the Framework Convention recognizes and provides, we cannot do it alone.
We are shocked by the apparent state of the negotiations here at Kyoto. It seems that the basic thrust of the Framework Convention has been stood on its head. The failure of the developed countries to take up their mandated leadership role, and instead’ to look to the developing world for flexibility and compromise, is impossible to understand given the origin and nature of the climate change threat.
If this Conference winds up as nothing more than another collision of economic interests, all of us will have missed the crucial point. Even more serious, this is the end of the line. This is where all the discussions ongoing since Berlin converge. If the enemies of the process succeed, this will be their finest hour.
I can speak only for my country. I can only ask that you, Mr. President, somehow find a way to cut through the jungle of the customary conflicts and lead us onto common ground. For the sake of future generations that must live on this planet, and after these long years of effort, we must not fail.
Thank you, Mr. President.