‘If you don’t transition from coal, are you really part of the Pacific?’ Ex-Tuvalu PM Sopoaga asks at COP25
MADRID, Dec 7, 2019 - Former Tuvalu Prime Minister and climate champion Enele Sopoaga questioned whether countries that accept the reality of climate change but refuse to transition away from fossil fuels are really part of the Pacific.
Mr Sopoaga made the remarks at an intergenerational dialogue event at the UN’s annual climate change conference, COP25 in Madrid, Spain overnight, where he warned of the dangers of climate denialism.
Mr Sopoaga referred to climate denialism and said “Some of our neighbours in the region, unfortunately, are starting to behave such as that, putting dollars and economies before the livelihoods of you guys, young people.”
“Just transition away from fossil fuels, including coal. We need officials here to honour that commitment, they cannot walk away from that commitment, or else we ask them do you really belong to the Pacific or not?”
In response to a question on the role of Australia in the climate crisis, Mr Sopoaga referred to the Pacific Islands Forum meeting he chaired as Tuvalu prime minister in August, where all members including Australia, signed a communique that acknowledged climate change as “the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific”.
“That is a powerful message that came out of the leaders’ communique,” he said, adding that the key takeaway was to “transition away from fossil fuels”.
“Everybody, including Prime Minister Morrison of Australia signed on to that language… and we need to make sure we operationalise that language… and I hope the Australian negotiators here take heed of and honour that commitment.
“The IPCC is warning us, no urgent action and Tuvalu goes underwater in 30 years.”
Referring to coal-producing nations such as Australia, Sopoaga said “They must stop coal mining immediately as a matter of urgency”.
The intervention came on the same day that Greta Thunberg arrived at COP25 and echoed the message of Pacific leaders like Sopoaga, in calling for swift climate action.
Mr Sopoaga also extended his sympathy to those in Australia suffering from deadly bushfires that have provoked a public health crisis through dangerous levels of air pollution.