It is the last day of COP23. During a break in the restaurant area, our attention is attracted by a nearby table: there is the Prime Minister of Tuvalu Islands, an archipelago of 129 islands and islets in the Pacific Ocean, halfway between Hawaii and Australia.
We take the chance to hear a first-hand testimony of how such remote place is dealing with climate change consequences. After all, the Pacific islands are among the realities most affected by global warming: sea level rise and the growing intensity of cyclones endanger liveability of the islands, and induce an increasing part of the population to migrate.
The Prime Minister, Enele Sopoaga, with surprising enthusiasm invites us to sit and join his team. Despite the fact that the citizens of Tuvalu are just over nine thousand, the delegation is numerous: several ministers, parliamentarians, women and representatives of non-profit organisations are here. The reason of this wide participation is immediately clear: “The people of Tuvalu are seriously concerned for the current situation, but we do not want to give up” says Sopoaga. Indeed, they adopted a remarkable climate policy constructing systems of coastal protection and elevation of islands and establishing a fund out of the proceed of fishing licences. The fact remains that financial resources are not sufficient. The economic support of several developed countries, notably European Union and New Zealand, made possible the replacement of fossil-fuels with renewable energy and the enhancement of the education system through technological devices.
As for the COP23 the delegates feel hopeful, the Fijian Presidency has already reached positive results directing the international community attention to the dramatic effects of global warming in the Pacific Islands. Despite their positive attitude: ” We keep looking on the bright side. If problems come up, we will do our best to find a solution, we are optimistic on the outcome of this COP”, there is still a shadow: “the situation is serious. We hope for the adoption of concrete remedies concerning the emission reduction. It is not simply a matter of temperature degrees, we are already experiencing the devastating effects of climate change not only in the Pacific but worldwide: bushfires in California, hurricanes in Texas and floods in Europe and Asia.”
“We can not allow ourselves to wait 2030 Agenda for sustainable development. When I look in the eyes of a child, as a leader, I should be able to tell him ’yes, we are working to save your future’”.Then the Prime Minister surprises us with his awareness of the fundamental role of education and directly to us: “our work will not end with COP23, we will go on with COP24. 25, 26. It’s essential to keep moving this way, speaking of climate change to foster youngster to take to heart this issue affecting us so directly” he says.
One last question: and what about the United Nations’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement? “Do not worry about that” he says, “leave them to their decisions, we should respect the leadership of american citizens” recalling, then, the remarkable role of United States for the Paris Agreement under the Obama administration and John Kerry Secretariat of State. “On the other hand, Trump is just one voice and there are still many other working together to move forward”.
At the end, we are pleasantly surprised for this simple and positive words despite the difficult challenge the Pacific inhabitants are facing and we accept more than willing the invitation to visit such a heavenly archipelago.