COP27: Aiming for climate-resilient Tonga by 2035-King Tupou VI

COP27, Sharm-El-Sheik, Egypt, Nov 7th, 2022–30 years ago since the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, “we no longer have the luxury of time” to keep the hope of 1.5 degrees alive, Tonga has told the United Nations COP27 plenary.

Speaking to other world leaders as the first high level plenary session convened in the ‘city of peace’, HM King Tupou VI recalled how, “in 2015 we gave this journey a new “raison d’etre” in the Paris Agreement. At COP26, in Glasgow, parties increased ambition and kept the hope of 1.5 degrees alive. We acknowledge and commend the outcomes from COP26 and note that we will only be a step closer to our goals if every country delivers on their pledge. We are here to make progress from where we stood with the Glasgow Climate Pact and more importantly, with the commitments we made at the adoption of the Paris Agreement,” he said.

Noting the COP27 theme of Delivering for people and the planet as a “timely and an essential reminder of the urgency of the task at hand for the survival of the Earth and for us its inhabitants,” the King said the task in delivering for Our People and for Our Planet is “to agree to goals with the highest ambition possible and
act together before the impacts become irreversible for us all. We no longer have the luxury of time.”

Tonga is the third most vulnerable country in the world to the adverse effects of climate change, and as with many other Pacific Island Countries, is heavily dependent on its fisheries and ocean resources for food, transport, economic development, and culture.

“Historically the Tongan people have always shown resilience in the face of such natural disasters,” His Majesty noted, “however, with record rates of increased coastal erosion, ocean acidification, loss of coral reefs coupled with the ever-present rising of sea-levels– three times higher than the global average– our ability to respond to the increasing multiplicity of disasters and the increasing severity and intensity of extreme weather patterns is now undermined.”

The Hunga Ha’apai, Hunga Tonga undersea volcanic explosion of January 15 has been “equal to none in our living history,” said King Tupou VI, “Homes were destroyed; lives were lost, and entire communities are deeply traumatized by the sonic explosions and resulting tsunami waves. Population displacement has now become permanent feature for my people.”

He thanked all nations who had helped the recovery efforts, highlighting the ongoing challenges brought about by the eruption, particularly around water security and the search for water desalination technologies that can operate on renewable energy. As well Tonga is seeking affordable transportation which deploys cutting edge technologies that promote wind- powered, low carbon emitting modes of transport.

Tonga will continue to meet its international goals under the Paris Agreement, having submitted its second Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in 2020 and setting ambitious mitigation and adaptation goals. In addition, Tonga’s Long Term Low Emission Development Strategy (LT-LEDS) sets targets in sectors including energy, transport, waste management and the resettlement of communities.

Upholding the overarching goal of a climate change resilient Tonga by 2035, King Tupou VI noted “adaptation to climate change generates larger benefits when delivered in conjunction with other development activities such as disaster risk reduction and community-based approaches to development.”

With shared regional concerns in mind, Tonga had endorsed the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent “that highlights the challenges that we face as a region and symbolizes our drive to respond to our ever-changing environment,” he said. —ENDS

Full Tonga statemen to the COP27

News on Tonga@COP27 via Tonga Government homepage