Delivered by H.E. Taukelina Finikaso, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade, Tourism, Environment and Labour of Tuvalu.
Mr. President, Excellencies, Colleagues
Please allow me to convey the Government and people of Tuvalu’s most heartfelt and sincere sympathies and condolences to our UN family, especially to those countries and families who have lost their loved ones on the recent tragedy. May the Almighty God grant them everlasting peace.
Tuvalu expresses great appreciation for the invitation to engage in meaningful dialogue, for the sustainable management of our environment and natural resources and it is a pleasure to see you Mr. President at the helm of this important conference.
Tuvalu congratulates the President of UNEA, the Executive Director, and the Acting Executive Director of the UN Environment for putting forward the critical theme for this 4th Session of the UN Environment Assembly, “INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS TO ENVIRONMENTAL CHALLENGES AND SUSTAINABLE CONSUMPTION AND PRODUCTION.”
Evidence from the latest global assessments indicates that our Planet is increasingly polluted, rapidly warming and quickly losing its biodiversity. Additionally, we continue to consume a large amount of resources at an unprecedented rate that is unhealthy for our planet.
The rapid urbanization and industrialization, rising income levels and modern technologies give rise to consumerism which leads to environmental degradation, resource scarcity, pollution, inefficiency and worsening climate change.
Climate change exacerbates these threats as evident from the findings of the (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C. Coral reefs and other marine ecosystems are under threat from climate change due to ocean warming and acidification. Small and low-lying islands like Tuvalu are subject to severe coastal flooding and inundation due to sea-level rise and storm surges.
Mr. President - like many of us from the Pacific Ocean, and Coastal States, the sea is the basis of our livelihoods. Tuvalu can probably be characterized as the most fisher-dependent nation on earth. Tuvalu’s 26 square kilometers of land is juxtaposed against the 27 million sq.km of the Pacific Ocean. Our economic development, our culture, our traditions and our spiritual values are intrinsically attached to the Ocean and our society depends on the effective management of our marine resources.
We are fully aware that ocean acidification and coral bleaching, marine debris particularly from plastics, nutrients, fertilizer and industrial runoff, ghost fishing-nets are decimating reefs and marine life. These environmental hazards are increasing the vulnerability of coastal and small island developing states. Plastic pollution is particularly abundant and toxic to the Oceans biodiversity. Eighty percent of all litter in the oceans are made of plastics and more than eight million metric tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans annually. We must act together to manage and reduce plastic pollution especially those that are affecting the marine ecosystem.
Furthermore, the problem of pollution is prevalent and persistent in all our countries, and we often turn a blind eye to it. Research shows that air pollution causes economic losses in trillions and approximately 7 million annual premature deaths of babies.
Mr. President we congregate here to call for the prevention and reduction of human induced marine pollution and the establishment of a coordinated global governance to address the negative impacts of marine litter, including plastic litter and microplastic. The ongoing commitments under UNCLOS and SDG 14 and our new voluntary commitments call for urgency in actions to address this issue with concrete solutions.
Tuvalu’s response is reflected in its Five-Year (2016 – 2020) National Strategy for Sustainable Development ‘Te Kakeega III’ that is aligned with the globally agreed SDGs and the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modality of Action (SAMOA) Pathway.
Addressing the impacts of climate change is the top priority in Tuvalu’s National Strategy for Sustainable Development 2016 to 2020 “Te Kakeega III.” Therefore, Tuvalu is committed to achieve its goal of 100 percent renewable energy of power generation by 2025, so far now we have achieved 35 percent of power generation through low-carbon solutions transformation to Solar Energy. This goal was reaffirmed under Tuvalu’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) under the Paris Agreement. In 2017, Tuvalu ratified the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol to phase down the use of high GWP Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) to keep the global temperature rise “well below” 2-degrees Celsius and even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Tuvalu participated in the Oceans Conference in NY in 2017 and pledged nine voluntary commitments for the sustainable management of our fisheries, sustainable blue economy and marine ecosystem. In addition, Tuvalu made a commitment to establish 10% of its EEZ as Marine Protected Areas, an expansion of conservation areas apart from the Locally Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs) that has already being established. Tuvalu is currently conserving 18% of its Terrestrial Areas which surpasses the Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 of conservation of 17% terrestrial and inland water. Tuvalu’s commitment to the protection of biodiversity and traditional knowledge relating to the use of biodiversity was strengthened through its accession to the Nagoya Protocol in 2018.
In 2017, Tuvalu established its Integrated Waste Policy and Action Plan: Towards Cleaner and Healthier Islands 2017-2026 which supports the objectives of the SDGs and the Cleaner Pacific 2025, a regional strategy to address the management of waste and pollution.
This year, Tuvalu is hosting the Pacific Island Forum in August, and I would like to announce that our Government has agreed to host a “Plastic-Free PIF.” We are indebted to the Government and the people of the United Kingdom for supporting us financially on this undertaking. In addition, the Government has also approved the preparation of a legislation to ban plastics in Tuvalu.
I would like to end by drawing your attention to an innovative solution that Tuvalu has initiated for the Pacific region with the support of the regional UN Environment. This innovative solution is the “Pacific Island Climate Change Insurance Facility (PICCIF).” The main objective is to help countries rebuild after the impacts of climate change. The Pacific Island countries are the most vulnerable to climate change, and we lack the technical capacity and sustainable finance to support such an innovative solution. We welcome great assistance from donors and countries in a position to do so to help us in advancing this innovative initiative.
Tuvalu is also sponsoring a Draft United Nations General Resolution in the upcoming UNGA meeting in September, which aims to protect the rights of people displaced by climate change and I seek the support of UN Environment and its members.
We call on member states on the urgency for actions to address the impacts of climate change and also to look after our environment so that our future generations are able enjoy. It is vital for all us here to increase our ambitions of NDCs and develop a shared and common vision on innovative solutions that enhance livelihoods and sustainable development.
Last but not the least, I wish to convey our sincere gratitude to the Government and people of Kenya for the hospitality and for hosting such an important conference. I also wish to recognise UNEP for its expertise and efficient arrangements for the Assembly.
Thank you Mr President