Speeches

Climate Change

Speech by President James Alix Michel on the occasion of the Opening Ceremony of the Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change of the Alliance of Small Island States, Savoy Resort, Beau Vallon

Tue, 11 November 2014

I would like to thank Sonam Tsultrim for the letter she has written to the UN Secretary General. This is the second letter from Seychelles to the UNSG. The first I handed over on behalf of Seychelles students to the Secretary General in Samoa. I am sure he will look at your letter and study it with great attention.

Thank you also, Your Excellency, the Minister for Education and Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Change, Mrs Charmaine Scotty, for your very frank assessment of our organization.

Excellencies,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Seychelles is honoured to host this meeting. It comes at a critical juncture for all SIDS. When, more than ever, critical leadership is required.

I would like to warmly express our appreciation to the government and people of Nauru for having provided the leadership as chair of our organization to ensure that this International Year of Small Island States is one of sustained activism for our shared cause.

I take this opportunity to also reiterate our appreciation to the Government and people of Samoa for helping us clearly set out, through the SAMOA pathway, the template of what we, as islands wish, to achieve.

We set these targets, not only for ourselves.  We set them for humanity.  For we know that our survival is bound up with the sustainable development of our planet.

In Apia, we showed what islands really are: the pulse of this planet that we call home.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Climate Change is the greatest threat of our time.

While many do not recognise it as such, the world’s most eminent scientists met last Sunday in Copenhagen to launch the most comprehensive assessment of climate change and are united in highlighting that action against climate change is an imperative to ensure we do not outgrow our planet.

In the face of this threat we, as SIDS, are on the front line.

And we do not have the economic means to build sophisticated defenses.

We do not have the latest technology to better adapt to the problem.  We cannot close our borders to cut ourselves off from it.

Nor do we have the economic might to apply sanctions on those most guilty of causing the problem.

All we have is our collective will to make a difference.  Our determination to act together, to build a common cause against climate change.

This is why our Alliance of Small island States (AOSIS) matters so much.

And at this juncture, we must ask ourselves a key question.  What do we wish AOSIS to be?

Following Samoa, and leading up to the Paris Conference on Climate Change in 2015 as well as the finalisation of the post 2015 development agenda, we must reinforce our organisation. We must endow it with the leadership it requires. Provide it with the efficiency it needs. Give it the resources to make it function.

Our alliance has allowed us to shine a light on questions that others chose to ignore – chief among them being climate change.

Our advocacy has made a real impact.

But we are also aware that in terms of the implementation of our priorities too often the world has chosen to ignore us.  Too often, we remain observers in the geo-political manipulations of others.  Too often we are treated as bystanders. And more often than not, we allow ourselves to be treated as bystanders.

We are 39 Small Island States.

In Samoa, we spoke for the world.

A few weeks later in New York, at the Special Climate Summit, convened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, the world turned to us.

We must continue to be the ones that will ask the questions that others will not.  We must continue to be the standard bearers of these ‘inconvenient truths’.

But we must also be the ones who will walk even where others fear to tread.  We must also own our own solutions.  We must be prepared to act, and bring others with us.

We must also be prepared to bring forth innovative solutions that address our priorities.

Our Alliance is well placed to build many of these solutions.  In Samoa we have already launched SIDS DOCK, an innovative platform for SIDS-SIDS support.  We are also seeing numerous regional partnerships across our three regions, such as the Western Indian Ocean Coastal Challenge, the Micronesia Challenge and the Caribbean Challenge Initiative.

If we are to be successful in our efforts to achieve positive outcomes in Paris in 2015 and in terms of the post 2015 development agenda we must, however, be prepared to further enhance our efforts.  We must strengthen the AOSIS Secretariat.

We must also ensure that island issues are represented for what they truly are: global issues.

To achieve an agreement in Paris – while we repeat our messages in plenary sessions – we must also be prepared to act outside of the conference rooms.  Let us be heard on every beach and every roadside. Let us be heard in Beijing, in Delhi, in Johannesburg, in London, in Moscow, in New York, in Paris, in Rio … Let us be heard in every village, in every town, in every city of the world. Let us be heard on the airwaves. Let the media disseminate our message.  Let us ensure that there is no discourse on security, on trade, on human rights, on development … unless we are also addressing climate change.

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Ahead of Lima and Paris, we must also undertake a frank self-assessment.  Most of us are under-prepared for these negotiations.  We do not have armies of scientists, statisticians or economists to help us make our case.

But we have something that is invaluable, something that is powerful: we are the conscience of these negotiations.

We stand as the defenders of the moral rights of every citizen of our planet.

To ensure that we fulfill this role let us consider a few priorities that we must ensure are addressed in these negotiations.

Firstly, we must remember, for Lima and Paris, that adaptation is as important as mitigation.  Climate change is already happening and we must have the means to address it.

Thus, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) should be capitalised as a matter of urgency, and developed countries should abide by the goal of jointly mobilising US0 billion annually by 2020.

Secondly, we must ensure that priority is given to those most vulnerable, especially SIDS.  Seychelles has been consistently working towards the adoption of a vulnerability resilience index to better target support to those countries that are most affected by exogenous shocks, such as climate change. We urge that we consider the adoption of such an approach as one of the utmost urgency.

Thirdly, taking action on climate change is not something for the future.  We need action now.  This is why Workstream 2 of the negotiations, which addresses specific sectorial actions, is a priority for AOSIS.

Fourthly, and finally, let us ensure that the debate on climate change is not divorced from the debate on sustainable development. The priorities of SIDS must be mainstreamed within the post 2015 Development Agenda.

Ladies and gentlemen,

In addition to these priorities, let us encourage development initiatives that build the resilience of SIDS in the face of climate change.

The Blue Economy represents a shared opportunity for all of us.  Seychelles highlighted in Samoa the ways in which our oceans hold the key to our future development.

It is a key factor in strengthening also the position of AOSIS as a global grouping.  A force for change. A force to be reckoned with. As guardians of some of the world’s most strategic geo-political spaces, and as custodians of vast untapped resources and unique biospheres, we must learn from each other and reinforce our capacity to bring about development results that have more impact for our own people.

The Blue Economy is about empowering islands in a new and fundamental way.

It is about taking ownership of what is rightfully ours.

It is about our birthright.

It is about the inheritance of our children.

Seychelles has also highlighted the importance of addressing the issues of SIDS’ external debt, both as part of building their capacity to respond to climate impacts and as a means of improving sustainable development.  Seychelles is in the advanced stages of negotiating a debt for adaptation project with the support of key international NGOs, such as “Nature Conservancy”, with a view to building resilience to climate change through marine-protected areas.

It should be noted that our oceans are the most effective carbon sinks that exist.  The increased acidification of the ocean due to the high rate of carbon absorption is a matter, which we must also address prominently in our negotiations.  The creation of marine protected areas can be a key contributor to not only improve climate resilience but also improve sustainability of key resources. It is essential that we strengthen the capacity of states in this regard.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is our Alliance. An alliance of frontline states.

An alliance of Small Island States.  An alliance of peoples. An alliance genuinely and totally committed to the cause of Small Island States. An Alliance where there should be no fencesitters.

We represent a diversity of cultures and geographic regions.

While we may not represent an economic block, we are stronger than we think we are.

We value each other because we see ourselves in each other’s experience.  And we also see our shared future in each other.

This is why we cannot accept that climate change be treated as an inevitability.  We cannot accept that any island be lost to sea level rise. We cannot accept that our islands be submerged by the rising oceans.

Let us use this meeting to reinforce the principles of collective action that will drive us forward.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Seychelles is honoured to have been endorsed by all of you as future chair of AOSIS for the period 2017-2019.  We consider your endorsement as recognition of our leadership role in AOSIS. We shall support the efforts of Maldives in 2015 as it succeeds Nauru to ensure that we strengthen our position ahead of Paris, and that we reinforce the ability of AOSIS to truly act decisively.

Together as an alliance we shall continue to pursue the cause of all our islands – yes, this global cause.

I thank you.

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