Yesterday, a top negotiator for the small island nations of the world said that the nations of the world assembled in Copenhagen — soon including President Obama and other world leaders — “have to discuss” the proposal of the tiny Pacific island state of Tuvalu to make an absolute effort to stop global warming. Tuvalu has formally proposed to amend the international climate treaty to reduce the concentrations of global warming pollution to 350ppm from 387ppm, and strictly limit further warming to less than double what has already occurred. Tuvalu is “in the eye of the cyclone” of global warming, already severely damaged by increased cyclones, sea level rise, and coral bleaching.
Tuvalu’s insistence that their amendment to dramatically strengthen the Kyoto Protocol be formally debated shut down the public negotiations during the first week when China and other powerful developing nations objected. In an interview with the Wonk Room, Antonio Pedro Monteiro Lima — Cape Verde’s Ambassador to the United Nations and Vice Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) — conceded that the small island states were willing to accept a consensus result that did not achieve all of the demands in the Tuvalu proposal:
If we can avoid voting, it is the best. If you can reach consensus, that’s the best. But the Tuvalu propsition is only a proposition. We have to discuss it. Of course, China has its own idea on this, and we understand what China is saying. But I think that Tuvalu has the right to put this forward. Because Tuvalu is in the eye of the cyclone, like all of us. They have the right to ask for the maximum, and perhaps . . .
The interview took place at the end of a press conference with two of the top organizers for the international climate movement, Bill McKibben of 350.org and Ricken Patel of Avaaz.org. In an impassioned speech, the ambassador fluently explained that the youth of the world must provide a voice for the small island nations and other countries on the front lines of global warming. Monteiro Lima said that above all, his delegation wants to see a “legally binding outcome” to the Copenhagen talks, because “we cannot go to our people and say we have nothing”:
A legally binding outcome, this is our demand, which includes perhaps not all of our demands, but a lot of our demands. It is very crucial for us. But a legally binding document is absolutely necessary at the end of this meeting. Because we cannot go to our people and say we have nothing.
The primary objection to the consideration of the Tuvalu proposal made by other developing countries is that it could block the passage of an extension of the legally binding (but developing-country-friendly) Kyoto Protocol. Its terms are politically unacceptable to both most developed and developing nations, as it would require strict reductions in pollution from all large polluting nations, rich and poor. Those reductions would be the only way to achieve the pollution and warming limits the small island nations are arguing are necessary to their survival. In the plenary session, China and some other nations questioned whether the Tuvalu amendment would kill the Kyoto Protocol. Ambassador Monteiro Lima explained that was absolutely not the case:
No, because the Tuvalu amendment doesn’t mean the killing of the Kyoto Protocol. We just want some amendments in the Kyoto Protocol. Nobody in AOSIS is asking for the disappearance of the Kyoto Protocol. No! There was a misunderstanding. We don’t want that. Those who want to kill the Kyoto Protocol are not us.
Several developed nations — including Canada and Japan — have explicitly called for the end to the Kyoto Protocol, preferring the Long-term Commitment to Action (LCA) track of nationally determined targets for both developed nations and the richest developing countries. The European Union is open to some extension of the Kyoto Protocol in parallel with the LCA approach.
The Bureau of National Affairs has reported that a workgroup will report back on the Tuvalu proposal on Monday, December 14:
Delegates ultimately adopted the stop-gap solution put forward by Hedegaard when the plenary resumed later in the day: The chair will name members of an informal workgroup to be co-chaired by one Annex I country (developed) and one non-Annex I country (developing) to study whether the contact group should be appointed. The workgroup will report back on Dec. 14.