Ahead of Climate Conference, Small Island Developing States Call Out Rich Countries in General Assembly for Lacking Political Will to Stop Global Warming

Upcoming Glasgow Meeting ‘Point of New Return’, Speakers Warn, Stressing Major Carbon-Emitting Nations Should Face Consequences for Shirking Responsibility

NEW YORK, United Nations, Sept 25 – With just over a month to go before a major United Nations climate change conference in Scotland, leaders of small island developing States took centre stage before the General Assembly today, saying their nations are facing an existential threat if rich countries fail to make good on their promises to turn the tide on global warming.

Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister of Fiji, said the voices of small island developing States must be heard if the world is to build back “greener, bluer and better”. Leaders unable to summon the courage to unveil commitments at the twenty-sixth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) — running from 1 to 12 November — should not bother booking a flight to Glasgow. “Instead, they should face consequences that match the severity of what they are unleashing on our planet,” he said.

Ralph E. Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, in the same vein, took major carbon-emitting countries to task for their “pious mouthings and marginal tinkering”. Science, the real world, and the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change have pointed to alternative pathways for humanity, but greater political will and resources are needed to address the grave challenge of climate change, he said.

Kausea Natano, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, said that in the face of rising sea levels, “will Tuvalu remain a Member State of the United Nations if it is finally submerged?” The cost of rebuilding after every tropical cyclone and adapting to increasing sea levels is leaving little fiscal space for investment in the Sustainable Development Goals, he stressed.

Fiame Naomi Mataafa, Prime Minister of Samoa, said major polluters and emitters must show more leadership. “The upcoming Conference of the Parties in Glasgow is our point of no return,” she said. Emphasizing the Pacific Ocean’s biodiversity, she said that securing maritime zones against rising sea levels — and preserving the rights and entitlements of Pacific island States — is a matter of fundamental importance.

Gaston Alfonso Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said official development assistance (ODA) should be viewed as a form of reparations for past environmental damage. “This is a non-confrontational form of climate justice; the alternative is that affected States may be forced to take legal action in the international courts to seek compensation for provable damage,” he said.

Other speakers today took up topics ranging from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the scourge of terrorism, digital transformation and the future of multilateralism in an era of global geopolitical change.

Ariel Henry, Prime Minister of Haiti, thanked the Assembly for its support following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. Haiti is determined to bring the perpetrators to justice, he said, requesting legal help to deal with the transnational crime. He added that Haitians who have been mishandled at the Mexico-United States border should be treated fairly and humanely.

Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, said countries that use terrorism as a political tool must realize that in doing so, they are creating a threat for themselves. In that context, he stressed the primacy of ensuring Afghanistan is not used to spread terrorism and that no country takes advantage of the delicate situation there for selfish interests.

Sergey Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, said a “might is right” approach — rather than “right is might” — is evident in the principles of the world order. Spotlighting persistent attempts to “sideline” the United Nations, he said the West practices a “double standard” on issues ranging from self-determination to democracy itself.

Demeke Mekonnen Hassen, Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia, said that political and security risks in Africa are taking a turn for the worse, with the forcible overthrow of Governments and a renewed appetite for intervention in sovereign States. “Unless we swiftly change course, this will be yet another round to destabilize Africa and disenfranchise Africans in the determination of our destiny,” he said.

Also speaking today were Heads of Government and Ministers of Saint Lucia, Andorra, Eswatini, Malaysia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Sudan, Cambodia, Bhutan, Thailand, Vanuatu, Bahamas, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Mali, Liechtenstein and Singapore.

The Secretary of State of the Holy See also spoke.

The representative of Indonesia spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The General Assembly will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Monday, 27 September, to conclude its general debate.

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