Tuvalu is turning into the little island nation that could just be the game changer in these talks. After a couple of days spent digging in their heels on the legal form of a potential deal, and then making headlines again yesterday with the release of the AOSIS (Alliance of Small Island States) draft text, Tuvalu open this morning's plenary meeting of the resumed COP with an impassioned plea, which many observers immediately called the signature moment of the talks thus far. In an earnest, emotional address, lead negotiator Ian Fry called out the United States Senate and President Obama directly. To paraphrase:
I understand that we are waiting for the U.S. Senate. It seems the fate of the world lies in the hands of a few U.S. senators. It is [difficult] that we are waiting for one country to decide before the international community can move forward. President Obama was currently in Sweden accepting a Nobel Prize, whether rightly or wrongly. For him to honor his Nobel Prize, he should address the greatest threat to humanity, climate change, and the greatest threat to human security, climate change.
He defended his obstructive position over the past few days of the talks, during which he has stood firmly in the way of consensus, demanding that the legally-binding nature of a deal be discussed in open sessions, not closed door backrooms. Fry urged that the entire population of Tuvalu lives within 2 meters of sea level, that their very existence as a nation is at stake, and that he isn't trying to embarrass anyone, cause trouble, or make a show, but merely serve the people of Tuvalu and protect their future. With tears in his eyes, Fry closed saying:
I woke this morning, and I was crying, and that’s not easy for a grown man to admit. The fate of my country rests in your hands.
Few were the dry eyes in the observers' section of the plenary hall. The U.S. did speak a few minutes later, but didn't respond directly to Tuvalu's plea. (What could be said, really?) Lead negotiator Jonathan Pershing did seem confident that--despite a number of problems with the current text from a U.S. perspective--the stage is set for great progress on Monday and that we will soon have "more clarity on the very core question of how we will have an operational agreement coming out of this meeting." The other core question, of course, is whether Tuvalu and other of the world's most vulnerable nations will, in the end, sit quiet and accept the outcome. If a legally-binding and extraordinarily ambitious deal that they now demand proves illusive, will a deal be better than no deal at all? We'll know in a week.
Ben writes about climate, energy, and sustainability for numerous publications and is the former environment editor at GOOD. He's the author of "The Big Green Apple: Your Guide to Eco-Friendly Living in New York City" and currently lives in Vermont. A bicycle enthusiast, Ben has...Ben writes about climate, energy, and sustainability for numerous publications and is the former environment editor at GOOD. He's the author of "The Big Green Apple: Your Guide to Eco-Friendly Living in New York City" and currently lives in Vermont. A bicycle enthusiast, Ben has ridden across the United States and through much of Europe.MoreClose