Mr President, Fellow Leaders, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen – Kia Orana to you all.
“Me kare e enua, kare o te tangata turanga vaevae”
The literal translation of these words is “when land is lost, man has nothing to stand on.” But in the language of my people, this means so much more.
My country is 2 million sq. km in area, but it is 99.99% ocean. That is why the small islands that provide my people a place to stand on are so very important to us. I thank you President Sisi for bringing us all together in your beautiful city of Sharm El Sheikh to discuss exactly what we stand to lose.
Just one year ago, world leaders came together in Glasgow and agreed the Glasgow Climate Pact. We committed to keeping the 1.5-degree goal alive and agreed a course of action to do so. We emphasised that we needed to urgently raise ambition, and that without concerted and rapid mitigation efforts, this goal would slip further and further from our reach.
I therefore share the grave concerns voiced by other small island states at the findings in the recent NDC Synthesis report, which indicates that our current NDCs have put us on a 2.7 degree pathway by 2100. This is based on the pledges that countries have made – this is the extent of our current global climate ambition. It is clearly not enough.
Even more concerning is the recent IPCC report, with the science telling us that if global emissions do not peak before 2025, if our current 2.7 degree NDC pledges are not implemented, and that if we stay the course of the current emissions trajectory, we will face a world with a median global warming of 3.2 degrees by 2100. The change is happening already, it is incremental, it is insidious, and it is now becoming inevitable.
Mr President – for small island states such as the Cook Islands, a small country made up of 15 islands in the South Pacific Ocean, we cannot underscore how grave the threat we are currently facing is.
At the national level, we are walking the talk:
We have converted 13 of our islands to solar energy and have set a target of 2025 for the remaining two.
We have committed to net zero emissions by 2040.
We have over a number of years implemented projects that focus on the link between well-being and climate change, we are building resilient infrastructure, and have for years implored for enhanced direct financing to communities for adaptation. The release of adaptation funding for our countries needs to be accelerated.
Next year, the Cook Islands will host the Pacific’s premier political forum, bringing together the Leaders of the Pacific nations to discuss regional priorities. Climate change will be at the forefront of these discussions, and we will advocate for tangible, fit-for-Pacific solutions to address the climate threat our Blue Pacific Continent faces. Each of us in the Pacific, individually and collectively, will do what we can to safeguard our futures.
As a collective, our Pacific region contributes less than 0.03 percent to global emissions. Our emissions are the equivalent of a burning matchstick in a forest fire. While we are doing our bit on mitigation efforts and reducing our emissions, there is only so much impact our national and regional actions can have. It is up to the G20 countries responsible for 80% of global emissions that we are beholden to for our survival. Our survival is being held to ransom at the cost of profit and an unwillingness to act, despite the ability to do so.
So let me respond in particular to calls for a moratorium on our oceans.
Do not tell me to ignore the potential for promoting the green transition by not exploring these much needed minerals for the green revolution that sit in my ocean. Some of us have taken years to gain a better understanding of how our ocean will save us and help save the planet.
Many of our Pacific cultures have an imbedded culture of conservation and environmental protection far better than these countries calling for a moratorium who continue to emit carbon at thousands of times the rate we do.
The very countries that destroy our planet through decades of profit driven development and who to this day continue their profit driven actions and neglect their climate change responsibilities, are making demands for a moratorium on our ocean. Or worse by providing financing mechanisms that increase our debt or even swap our debt for our precious forests and oceans.
It is patronizing and it implies that we are too dumb or too greedy to know what we are doing in our ocean. We know what we are doing to protect ourselves and to protect our ocean. Because so far, we are not getting what we need from those who are damaging our planet.
Mr President – we need to urgently scale up global mitigation ambition and agree a work programme that veers us from our current emissions trajectory, and which keeps the spirit of the Paris Agreement alive.
We urgently need developed countries to deliver on their climate finance commitments, and for that finance to respond to the loss and damage that is already happening in climate vulnerable countries, and that will continue to occur in the face of the projected 3.2 degree temperature rise.
We must agree to a plan for operationalising the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage, to allow SIDS and other countries particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change to begin receiving the assistance required to address loss and damage.
COP 27 is the COP of implementation. The time for action is now. We cannot afford to be complacent while homes are being destroyed, people are being displaced, and lives are being lost.
The effects of climate change are already eroding the land that my people stand on. We must act now, before it is too late.
I thank you.