A friend from Los Angeles mentioned when visiting us a few days ago that he had recently seen a striking performance at UCLA by dancers from the Pacific islands of Tuvalu, Tokelau and Kiribati. Climate change figured strongly in the concert, which was part of a project called Water is Rising. Intrigued, I tracked down the project website and to my delight discovered a video of the live performance at UCLA (presented above). I say delight advisedly because I was unable to tear myself away from the 90-minute performance once I’d begun to watch it, captivated by its dance and song and moved by the simple human appeal that accompanied it. The performers were bringing their unique cultural art to American audiences, but they were also haunted by the deep threat to their cultures of the rising sea levels and they had a clear message to go with their performance.
It’s a message which I think we in the developed world need to hear over and over again. I’ve therefore transcribed some of the introductory words of the leaders of the three groups. They were not carefully crafted, the speakers felt for their words, and the English syntax was not always perfect, but the plea was all the more telling for that. The Tuvalu leader, gesturing towards the performers:
These are the human face of climate change. We are the most vulnerable people to climate change and we are here with a simple message to you all – for you to give us a hand, for your minds to feel with us, your hearts to be with us. We are here to represent our countries…we [Tuvalu] are small, we are only 24 square kilometres land mass. No mountains for us to hide ourselves when it comes to sea level rise…we are only three to four metres high. Please think of us, and enjoy yourselves.
Continue reading “Water is rising”
3.20 am Sunday morning
The South African Minister took key people into a “huddle” for 10 mins.
“Can the world be saved in a tea break?” tweeted @FionaHarvey from The Guardian.
Tea Break over… so. They have agreed “to launch a process to develop a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force applicable to all parties….” to be negotiated through to 2015 and be implemented from 2020.
Meanwhile, over in the Kyoto Protocol, the EU slipped back and agreed an eight-year commitment period, which would also take that through to 2020. It’s up to governments to decide whether they want to submit pledges under that process by May next year.
So with the atmosphere in mind, and the steady march to 3.5ºC of warming, there’s nothing much here, yet, to slow that march. The definition of the “legal” bit of this decision could mean anything – and I can see lawyers around me in plenary already working that out. Will it be enough to bring the big emitters on board?
Will that be enough for New Zealand to make its pledge unconditional and continue with Kyoto? Or will our government continue to point fingers at the big guys? Given the work that Tim Groser did in watering down the text overnight, I doubt it.
But right now, I’m too tired to puzzle it all out. It’s certainly nothing like the strong climate action we need.
Continue reading “Liveblog: Durban down to the wire”
In a comment on Tom Bennion’s recent post on the water crisis in Tuvalu and Tokelau Gareth drew attention to an article in the Economist which sounded similar themes. Small island states are well aware of the danger in which they stand and of how grudging any help is likely to prove:
Australia has turned down Tuvalu’s request for an emergency migration programme that would resettle the islanders. Even a €90m ($119m) aid package to tackle regional climate change pledged earlier this year by the European Union has done little to tamp down its fears.
The leaders of countries as far afield as Barbados and Grenada joined Tuvalu in raising the alarm over the issue in a series of impassioned speeches to the United Nations General Assembly last month. Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, laid the blame for the current debacle squarely at the feet of developed economies.
He was “baffled” he said, “by the intransigence of major emitters and developed nations that refuse to shoulder the burden for arresting climate changes that are linked to the excesses of their own wasteful policies.” As it happens, the first states to experience the effects of climate change as an existential threat are among the world’s smallest, most isolated and least powerful.
What particularly caught my attention in the Economist article was a link back to a past story published in the magazine in 1997. It was revealing both of how long the island states have been anxious and of how summarily those concerns have been treated by the more powerful.
Continue reading “The long history of hot air and inaction”
New Zealand’s response to the water crisis in Tuvalu and Tokelau is making headlines. Foreign Minister McCully announced yesterday:
Tuvalu has declared a state of emergency relating to water shortages in the capital, Funafuti, and a number of outer islands. A New Zealand Defence Force C-130 left this morning to take supplies and personnel to Tuvalu. The supplies include two desalination units as well as water containers. Two Ministry of Foreign Affairs staff on board, including our Wellington-based High Commissioner, will remain in Tuvalu to help assess needs on the ground. New Zealand will be working with partners and other donors to consider the best medium-to-long-term response options.
Tuvalu, with 11,000 inhabitants, is not the only island nation in trouble. Tokelau, with 1400 inhabitants, has declared a state of emergency because fresh water supplies might run out in a few days. Samoa is rationing water also.
There appears to be a reasonable probability that there is a causal link between the drought and water scarcity affecting the islands and climate change.
Continue reading “Water, water everywhere…”