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Statement of Lord Tu'ivakano, Prime Minister of Tonga on the Climate Summit 2014

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Mr. Chairman
At the outset, I would like to associate my statement with that delivered by the Plurinational State of Bolivia on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, as well as the statement to be delivered on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States by the Republic of Nauru.

Mr. Chairman,
The World Risk Report measures a country’s vulnerability to natural hazards. Tonga is now ranked the second most vulnerable country in the world to these. In January this year, an unusual Category 5 cyclone devastated our central island group with one fatality, displacing thousands, and causing over $120 million in damage.
Today, that same central island group is suffering from an unseasonal drought.

Mr. Chairman,
As the climate changes, we have to change with it, or risk enhancing our vulnerability further. We in Tonga are taking on the challenge both in terms of mitigation and adaptation.

In terms of mitigation, Tonga has reshaped its energy systems and has dramatically cut its fossil fuel use. Our first step was to take an open, whole-of-sector look at the ground realities - from line loss, to generation, to price structure.

Through our Tonga Energy Road Map, we streamlined our energy governance, making it more coherent. We shared our experiences, good and bad, with our Pacific neighbours and in the process we learned from them how we could improve. That led to our collaboration on the Pacific Regional Data Repository, announced here at the margins of the UN General Debate last year, and was recently launched at the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States earlier this month in Samoa.

In terms of adaptation, we have used a whole-of-country approach through our Joint National Action Plan on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management. The Plan works both vertically and horizontally through all related sectors.
To complement my government’s own efforts, a pioneering Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment, Climate Change, and Disaster has also been established.

Mr. Chairman,
As a small island developing state on the front line of climate change in our Asia Pacific region, we are experiencing today an existential threat to our very livelihood – a threat that we perceive as one, to the very peace and security of the international community.

Mr. Chairman,
Tonga was elated that for the first time, the Security Council last Thursday adopted a resolution that in effect brought the very dangerous scourge of ebola, a health issue, into consideration and acceptance as a threat to international peace and security. In the same vein, it is high time that the dangers of the scourge of climate change and the existential threat it poses, be likewise again re-considered by the Security Council as a threat to international peace and security.

Mr. Chairman,
This very building symbolizes our joint vulnerabilities. Its soaring aspirations bind us and reach sky high. But its foundations are on a flood plain. During the tragedy of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, part of this building flooded and, for three days, the headquarters of the United Nations shut down.
According to the science, this Category 5-type hurricane is likely to happen again, and again. It does not have to. There are solutions from structural adaptation, to technical solutions, and financial mechanisms. We just need to work together, quicker and holistically because time is not a luxury we have.

Finally, Mr. Chairman,
Just this passed Sunday hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life, here in New York, joined the millions globally, and took to the streets to demonstrate that they are up to the climate change challenge.

Today I call on my fellow leaders to this Climate Summit, to show that we are as well.
Thank you Chairman


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