Radical solutions to climate change needed - Kiribati
The president of Kiribati says there is a need for radical solutions to dealing with the effects of climate change, such as creating floating islands or building up the land.
The president of Kiribati says there is a need for radical solutions to deal with the effects of climate change, such as creating floating islands or building up the land.
Anote Tong says whatever mitigation action the world agrees to take at climate change talks in Paris, it comes too late for low-lying nations like Kiribati.
He says he is sick of talking, and is calling on the global community to come up with credible ways to help the country adapt to rising sea levels.
Mr Tong told Mary Baines climate change will be the biggest humanitarian issue to face our time.
ANOTE TONG: Climate change for us, in Kiribati, is about survival. It's not about economic growth, it's not about the environment, it's about the survival of our future generations. And I think the challenge we have been putting forward to the global community is how are we going to be responding to this. Because up to now I really have not been able to get a credible response that at least would give some assurance that our people would be able to stay on in the islands with the rising sea level - how are we going to be able to deal with that. We need a response from the rest of the global community, because we can never deal with this on our own. And of course climate change is a product of man's actions. And so we are the first on the front line and we are challenging the global community to come up with solutions to this challenge.
MARY BAINES: As you say, the effects of climate change are already a pressing issue for Kiribati and other low lying countries. So where to from here? What can be done at this stage?
AT: Well we have got Paris coming up at the end of the year. There's a number of meetings coming up, we've got the General Assembly in September and of course we have the UN COP 21 in Paris. And of course the question is, is the global community coming forward with a credible solution to the challenge of climate change? The point I keep making is that it's not about what we will agree in Paris because in Paris there is no doubt we will focus on emissions levels or temperature rise. But for us, the most vulnerable countries, it doesn't matter what happens in Paris, we are already victims. We are already suffering. And no matter what agreement is reached, the global warming for us will continue, the momentum of the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere will carry on and sea level will continue to rise, and we would be affected very seriously. The question is, what is the global community going to be doing about this.
MB: So what would you like to see the global community do?
AT: I think we need credible, technical solutions, resourcing of those solutions - do we build up the islands or do we build floating islands, or what do we do? Because we cannot remain as we are. The waters are going to be rising. If we don't raise the islands we have to find somewhere else to go. So it is a humanitarian issue, I think climate change will be the biggest humanitarian challenge that will face humanity in the future.
MB: There is space for innovation, things like floating islands. How much have you looked into that?
AT: Well again we are coming up with all kinds of radical options because we don't have a lot of options. People sometimes laugh at the idea, the notion of floating islands. But the reality is we don't have a great deal of options available to us. Sometimes I have been accused of scaremongering but it's not - it's the reality of what we are facing.
MB: What does Kiribati need in terms of resources to make this a reality?
AT: We need to be able to build up the islands if that is the option - if not, then what. So we need people with the capacity, with the skills, with the expertise to be able to come and tell us what options we have available. And then the next stage we will be getting the funding to start flowing. There are encouraging international commitments but we've got to be able to translate this into real concrete solutions.
MB: With talks like Paris there's a concern it will just be another talkfest - you know, real results, real action, real promises won't come out of it.
AT: This is what we are pressing, pressing for real action, concrete action. I think there's been a lot of talk and we don't want to carry on talking. I have been talking about the issue for ten years and I am getting tired of talking, I really am. We need to go back home and tell my people that we have solutions, that the next storm if it comes, if and when it comes, we can guarantee them that they will be safe and secure. We are asking the international community because it is not something we can do on our own.
MB: So you will be leaving office at the end of the year.
AT: The constitution dictates that I cannot run again, nor do I wish to do that. I think I've done enough damage or whatever it is. But I think I have tried to do what I believe should have been done. But I really would like to ask that we do something very concrete about the challenge of climate change.
MB: You've been such a strong voice for Kiribati and other Pacific countries already feeling the effects of climate change. Is there another leader who will come in and continue the work you have been doing?
AT: I am sure. The world is full of wonders. And I am sure there will be somebody to take up where I leave it. We have no choice. We have to do that. We have to keep struggling. We have to keep telling the global community that they must act, otherwise there is no point talking about humanitarian action.
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