Ambition at Cop27 has not been high enough, Tonga's envoy to UN says

It was logical for island states endangered by climate change to seek assistance, Viliami Tone said

The eruption in January of a volcano near the Pacific nation of Tonga was one of the most powerful ever observed, sending gravity waves to the edge of space. Extreme weather events are becoming more common. AFP
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A diplomat from Tonga, an island Pacific state imperilled by climate change, said the ambition from developed states at Cop27 has not been high enough.

Viliami Tone, Tonga's ambassador to the UN, said these developed countries had their issues but so did Tonga, a South Pacific island where extreme weather and rising seas could see it disappear.

Speaking on Thursday, Mr Tone said there was a still a day to go at the crucial UN talks where a breakthrough could be made but that it did not look good.

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Countries remain at loggerheads on key issues such as keeping 1.5°C alive and loss and damage — compensation from rich countries to developing countries for devastation done by climate change.

“The negotiations are not completed yet but we feel that the commitment from the global north is not there to our satisfaction,” Mr Tone told The National on the sidelines of the conference in Sharm El Sheikh.

When asked if he was hopeful a deal could be clinched he said: “We hope so but it will be tough. We have to keep our hope even in the last day and keep up momentum.”

Mr Tone welcomed the fact that loss and damage had been added to the agenda at a Cop for the first time and said it was “logical” for states such as Tonga to ask for assistance with the immediate day-to-day struggle against climate change.

“We are very happy loss and damage was included on the agenda. That we have to very thankful for. How we design the mechanism for that is another task. The tug of war is between establishing another fund and this may be premature for developed states. My better sense is that high ambition is not there.”

Mr Tone also outlined some of the challenges facing Tonga, one of the countries least responsible for climate change, and he described the situation as “dire”.

“It is existential for us bearing in mind a lot of the population tends to live closer to coastal areas. The sea level rise is there to stay. We are daily facing the brunt of climate change every day.”

Uili Louiso, an artist from Tonga, said everyone was part of the problem but the question was, do you want to be part of the solution.

“That is the best question for me.” he said. “That's nature's solution. My challenge for you and everyone is please plant [something] you can see.”

Updated: November 17, 2022, 6:01 PM
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