News From Cancun: President Of Nauru Rebukes World Bank’s Call For Compromise

The Wonk Room is reporting and tweeting live from the international climate talks in Cancun, Mexico.

In a plenary session moderated by Mexico President Felipe Calderon at the Cancun climate talks this morning, world leaders debated what counts as a reasonable approach to the threat of global warming. The president of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick, stressed the importance of moving forward with frameworks to strengthen the role of “small players” in market approaches to reducing climate pollution and building resilience to the impacts. Challenging negotiators to “not let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” he said that it would “unfortunate” if “one or two small players held the negotiations hostage.”

One of the speakers to follow Zoellick was the president of Nauru, Marcus Stephen. The head of the world’s smallest island nation, covering just 8 square miles, explained his negotiating stance:

Some have suggested that we cannot let the “perfect” be the enemy of the “good.” For us, ‘the good’ is pretty simple. ‘The good’ is our survival. It’s not ‘perfect.’ but it’s very good for us.

“We’re not here to derail the process,” he said. “But our starting point is our survival.”

Scientific researchers at the Potsdam Institute have found that sea level rise can only be halted under emissions trajectories that result in 1.5 C warming or less. “For small island states, even 2C implies long-term sea level rises that will affect them existentially—which is why these states call for a 1.5C target,” Dr. Malte Meinshausen explained in 2009.

President Stephen reminded the audience why his nation is one of over 110 others that have embraced the 1.5 C goal: “We simply cannot ignore the science.”

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