PRIME MINISTER OF TUVALU
Honourable Mr. Kausea Natano
The 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
September 23, 2022
“A Watershed Moment: Transformative solutions to Inter-locking Challenges”
Mr. President, Distinguished members of the General Assembly, Ladies and Gentlemen,
1 On behalf of the Government of Tuvalu, I congratulate you on your election as President of the
77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Tuvalu has full confidence in your leadership.
Let me also take this opportunity to thank the president of our 76th session, Hon. Minister Abdulla Shahid, for
a very successful session under his leadership, despite the challenges due to the covid19 pandemic.
Theme of UNGA77: “A watershed moment: transformative solution to interlocking challenges”.
2 We welcome the pragmatic vision of your presidency of the 77th Session of the UN General
Assembly. We applaud you for the theme of your presidency: “A watershed moment: transformative
solutions to interlocking challenges.” Indeed, we must strengthen our commitment to upholding the core
principles of the UN Charter at this watershed moment. We maintained that the UN Charter is our shared
Constitutive Instrument to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations
among nations, and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights.
3 We are indeed encouraged by the priorities of your presidency, and we look forward to working
closely with you as we continue to grapple with economic recovery from the covid 19 pandemic, tackle
climate change and strive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
4 Global crises have become more complex, interlinked, and transboundary in their impacts,
demanding global cooperation and solidarity to formulate and implement sustainable solutions. It requires
all the partnerships we need to bring about positive changes to people’s lives.
It is however regrettable that the Republic of China (Taiwan), with its notable partnerships on a wide range
of development issues, continues to be kept out of the United Nations system. Tuvalu has significantly
benefitted from our partnerships in agriculture, food security, public health, medicine, clean energy,
including our recovery from the economic and social impacts of the Covid19 pandemic.
5 Tuvalu strongly supports the readmission of the Republic of China (Taiwan) into the UN as a
founding member of the United Nations, and its active participation in UN specialized agencies including
the World Health Organization, the International Civil Aviation Organization, and the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change. We must not sideline Taiwan, a vibrant democracy that has
made significant progress on all the Sustainable Development Goals, and ready to contribute more to global
efforts in achieving the SDGs.
6 It is also regrettable that the people of Cuba continued to face the economic burden of the long
unilateral economic blockade. The economic blockade neglected the human rights and the spirit of
cooperation espoused in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Keeping these measures in place
deprived Cuba of the international development assistance and partnerships to recover and build back better.
7 In the same vein, we reiterated the strong concerns of our region of the potential threat of nuclear
contamination to the health and security of the Blue Pacific, its people and prospects, and reaffirmed the
importance of ensuring international consultations, international law, and independent and verifiable
scientific assessments. These principles must govern the deployment and use of nuclear technology, and
the discharge of nuclear materials and wastes into our Blue Pacific Continent.
8 We maintained that the UN decolonization process is critical to the protection of human rights
including the right to self-determination and urge the meaningful engagement of the UN with all relevant
partners and stakeholders to the decolonization process.
9 Let me now speak of an issue that is of the greatest concern to my country. Climate change and its
consequential sea level rise, remains the single greatest existential threat my country faces, underscoring
the urgency to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees through rapid, deep, and sustained reductions in
greenhouse gas emissions.
10 At an average land elevation of no more than 2 meters above sea level, my country will succumb
to sea level rise. The IPCC report issued last year is clear, that at current global warming trend, we are
destined to miss the 1.5 degrees target of the Paris Agreement. This clearly means that Tuvalu will be
totally submerged within this century.
11 The climate crisis is creating an increasingly uncertain future for people in most parts of the world.
Paradoxically in my region, the Pacific, it is making our future increasingly certain: but not in a way that
gives us any kind of comfort.
12 During this century, several Pacific Island nations will become mostly uninhabitable. For my
country Tuvalu, which sits halfway between Hawaii and Australia, this could happen in the next two to
three decades. Other Pacific Island countries on the climate change frontline may have a few decades
longer; but our final destination is no longer a matter of guesswork. Most societies see climate change as
mainly about cutting carbon emissions or mitigating future impacts. We are facing a looming situation far
more profound – the near certainty of terminal inundation. Our peoples, in my generation or the next, will
be unable to exist on the islands that have nurtured our ancestors for centuries – it is our God-given home.
13 Tuvalu and our Pacific neighbours have done nothing to cause climate change. Carbon emissions
combined across the entirety of Pacific Islands amount to less than 0.03% of the world’s total – even less
if we speak of historical emissions. The existential threat we face is not of our making. But it will remake
14 How we will negotiate this remaking is a question that the international community must now
urgently begin to address. Major economies which have the highest contribution to greenhouse gas
emission cannot be oblivious and do nothing.
15 People everywhere, across all ages and walks of life, are demanding leadership on climate change,
especially from those most able to provide it. Tuvalu is an acid test of leadership: because if the
international community allows an entire country to disappear from climate change, what hope will be
possible for anyone else?
16 These are unprecedented times. Science cannot tell us exactly when our homeland will become
uninhabitable. But it does tell us how. As the ocean rises, salt water permeates into the aquifers that provide
our drinking water. Now, in many places, our water security is severely compromised. A rising ocean
brings higher tides, and with increasing storm frequency and intensity, our villages, and agriculture are
devastated. Flooding leaves soil saline, reducing crop yields, severely compromising our food security.
Infrastructure such as homes, roads, and power lines are washed away; and higher land on which to rebuild
does not exist.
17 The precious coral that supports our tourism and nurtures our fish-stock perish, as the ocean warms
and acidifies. The cost of eking out an existence, of maintaining the status quo, increases for individuals
and the entire country, over time becoming too much to bear. Such extremities push citizens to leave; the
nation itself becomes increasingly inchoate, legally, and spiritually rooted to a shoreline that is disappearing
under rising tides.
18 This is how a Pacific atoll dies. This is how our islands will cease to exist. This is not about some
future scenario. It is what we are living with now!
19 Inaction brings responsibilities. Tuvalu have not yet reached the end of this process of salination,
destruction, degradation, and demise. But we are well past the beginning. Despite international agreements
and repeated commitments, global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, with many countries still
pursuing a future fueled by coal, oil, and gas.
20 This is the first time in history that the collective action of many nations – or more accurately, the
collective inaction of many nations will be responsible for making sovereign countries uninhabitable. It is
an unprecedented crisis requiring radical intervention.
21 Current international instruments such as the Convention on Statelessness do not cover our
situation. Neither does the United Nations’ various efforts to address climate change. Agreements reached
at its annual summits, including last year’s COP26 in Glasgow, cover a wide range of issues like targets for
cutting emissions or commitments for international finance to address impacts. But with regard the looming
uninhabitability of sovereign states, they say NOTHING.
22 This is why Tuvalu, and the Marshall Islands launched the Rising Nations Initiative yesterday to
fill the current gaps in awareness, legal framework and political commitment. The global community must
begin a serious and responsible dialogue that acknowledges both the realities and the rights of Pacific Island
nations such as mine, and more fundamentally, of our citizens.
23 This is about Sovereignty, Dignity, and Integrity.
We need a global settlement that guarantees nation states such as Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands a
permanent existence beyond the inhabitable lifetime of our atoll homes, irrespective of the onslaught of
climate change and sea level rise. It must recognize and protect our cultural integrity, our human and
economic capital, and our sovereignty. It must be co-created and enacted with the peoples and governments
of Island nations, not visited upon us by others.
24 This settlement includes, ultimately, the protection of our rights to our land and ocean, preserve our
heritage, and sovereign right to govern our citizens. our relocation elsewhere in the world where our
peoples will be welcome and celebrated. We do not seek to move out of our homeland. We seek fair and
amicable treatment of displaced people so we do not become a burden on others; but equally, natural justice
dictates that we are not fobbed off with a wasteland. Economically, we can continue to support ourselves
– in the case of Tuvalu, for example, using income from the continued sustainable use of the Exclusive
Economic Zone around our islands.
25 Finding the right solution will require statesmanship and empathy, beginning with an
acknowledgement that a situation globally caused must also have a globally just and equitable solution.
26 As Pacific peoples, we raise our children to respect the ocean, land, and sky, as providers of life.
Now, through no fault of our own, we will soon have to abandon the oceans, land, and sky that have forged
our cultures and identities for centuries. We neither castigate nor demand charity. But we do ask for
generosity of spirit, support, and justice that recognizes our reality and our grave concern on the potential
eradication of our atoll nations due to rising sea levels in our part of the world
27 I thank you for your attention.
TUVALU MO TE ATUA–ENDS
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