REMARKS: SG Puna on statehood, livelihoods, sea level rise at COP27 side event

12.00pm – 12.50pm, 11 November 2022


• The Honourable Steven Victor, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Pacific Climate Change Political Champion for Environmental Integrity.
• The Honourable Seve Paeniu, Minister Finance of Tuvalu and Pacific Climate Change Political Champion for Loss and Damage.
• The Rt Honourable Patricia Scotland, Secretary General of the Commonwealth Secretariat.
• Ms Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner Youth Representative of the Republic of Marshall Islands and Climate Justice activist,
• Ladies and Gentlemen, Friands,

1. It is my greatest pleasure to welcome you to the Pacific Islands Forum Side Event on Statehood and Livelihoods threatened by sea level rise.

2. The issue of Statehood and livelihoods threatened by sea-level rise is one that is making its way to the forefront of a host of climate change induced challenges that we have had to grapple with as a Pacific family, and more so as part of the broader family of small island states.

3. Based on current trajectory from the IPCC, we understand that the accelerating rate of climate change and sea-level rise may affect our understanding of statehood.

4. At their recent meeting, Forum “Leaders recognised the many impacts of climate change and disaster and their threat to the future of the region’s people and the statehood of many Pacific nations”.

5. They “noted that due to the complexity of the issues of statehood and persons affected by sea-level rise, due consideration of these issues should be guided and informed by applicable principles and norms of international law and relevant international frameworks and standards, and the need for the region to unpack these issues further”.

6. The Blue Pacific is proactively considering this issue, linked also to our engagement in the work of the International Law Commission on this issue.

7. It is no secret that many coastal communities are threatened by a very slow but progressive emigration of our populations due to climate change and inadvertently becoming “climate displaced peoples”.

8. In the complexity of this debacle, what remains very real for us in the Blue Pacific is that sea level rise along with saltwater intrusion and coastal erosion are continuing to have debilitating consequences on our islands.

9. This brings us to focus of this side event, considering the livelihoods of Small Island States that on a daily basis live and walk in the harsh realities of the exacerbated effects of climate change and sea level rise.

10. While the global legal discourse on Statehood continues, we as a people in the Blue Pacific continue grapple with a range of challenges such as our agricultural land being ruined by saltwater intrusion and adversely affecting our food source like the yield of our taro and yam harvest and the quality and availability of safe drinking water for our people.

11. I am proud to say that the Blue Pacific family has risen to the occasion, not to be portrayed only as victims but also as leaders in the innovative thinking and innovative actions that will shapes our future and how will we address sea level rise and climate change.

12. At the COP negotiations like this one and in other international negotiations the Blue Pacific has championed and strongly supported initiatives such as the “1.5 to stay alive” and the call of our Pacific youth “we are not drowning, we are fighting”.

13. At the helm, our Blue Pacific Forum Leaders have launched the groundbreaking Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the Face of Climate Change-related Sea-Level Rise.

14. The Declaration clarifies our position that our maritime zones, once established in accordance with UNCLOS, will be maintained as such, along with rights and entitlements flowing from them, without reduction notwithstanding any physical changes connected to climate change-related sea-level rise.

15. Our Forum Leaders have also launched the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, which charts our course and the future of our Blue Pacific with a key focus on strengthening regional solidarity on the thematic areas of Climate Change, Disasters, Ocean and Natural Environment.

16. Forum Leaders have also continued to highlight climate change as the single greatest existential threat facing the Blue Pacific.

17. This side event provides a platform to discuss and unpack the complexities around Statehood and sea level rise and also highlight the innovative actions and solutions driven by small islands states on this issue.

18. I trust that the distinguished panellists seated before you today will provide a very rich insight into the realities of our people and the innovative thinking and actions they have undertaken in their national or institutional capacities that will drive the solutions for addressing statehood and sea level rise.

19. I thank you.


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