Tonga calls for COP26 to accelerate actions to tackle the climate crisis


By Pita Ligaiula in Glasgow

Survival from the impacts of climate change is the most pressing concern for the Kingdom of Tonga.

Addressing the COP26 High-Level segment, Tonga’s High Commissioner to London Fanetupouvava’u Tu’ivakano, said the island Kingdom stand in global solidarity urging all countries to work together to address the challenges and to accelerate actions to tackle the climate crisis.

“We strongly re-emphasise the fundamental value and critical imperative in securing the net-zero emission target by 2050 and thereby limiting the temperature increase to 1.50C by the end of the century.

“Anything beyond the 1.5C threshold would spell absolute catastrophe for Tonga, Pacific, the Small Island States and the world at large.

“We will persist to call on everyone particularly the big polluters and major emitters for ambitious emission reductions by 2030 and to implement commitments consistent with the 1.50C target. Phasing out of coal plants and fossil fuel subsidies and investments are indeed crucial,” High Commissioner Tu’ivakano told the high-level segment.

She said what matters now is action.

“At COP, two important sectors are absent from all of our NDCs – the international shipping and aviation sectors, but we all share a responsibility to ensure these sectors do not cause us to fail to meet our Paris Agreement goals.

“With their GHG emissions overseen by sister UN agencies, we must work to ensure the positions that we all take here at UNFCCC are consistent with our work at the IMO and ICAO. For Tonga, a large ocean state, our focus has primarily been on shipping.

“The solutions IMO must now adopt are a resolution at MEPC 77 in two weeks’ time that shows that it is unambiguously aligned to the Paris Agreement temperature goals by elevating its ambition to zero GHG by 2050. And we must work at MEPC to secure the policy solutions that can achieve that decarbonisation – and for this purpose, we strongly support the proposal of the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Solomon Islands for a levy imposed on shipping’s GHG emissions from 2025 at the latest,” said Tuivakano.

She said without the necessary support the world will take longer to implement concrete actions and achieve the 1.5C degree goal within the given timeframe.

“We continue to stress and call on developed countries to keep their promise to mobilise at least $100bn per annum in climate finance by 2020.

“We also call on the International financial institutions to play their part in facilitating greater access to the private and public sector finance required to secure global net-zero emission by 2050.

“Loss and damage also need dedicated funding therefore COP 26 must address the long-term consequences of insufficient climate action in this area.

“We urge parties to complete the Paris Rulebook so that the Paris Agreement can be operationalised,” she said.

Tuivakano said the effects of Climate Change continue to threaten the environment, land, the ocean and the marine resources, upon which, the livelihood and existence of Tongan people, depend very much on.

“In Tonga, we have experienced the increased intensity and frequency of tropical cyclones with the 4 tropical cyclones in less than a month during our last cyclone season in February of this year, over the past decade, sea level rise with an average of 6.4mm per year; while higher ocean temperature results in coral bleaching of the country’s reefs; record rates of coastal erosion, overflow and flash flooding; saltwater intrusion affecting groundwater quality and increase soil salinisation resulting in the reduction of crop yields.

“Drought leads to water scarcity especially the outer islands where rainwater is the only source of water; and loss of critical infrastructures, assets and habitats in coastal areas,” she said.