By Debbie Singh, Influencing and Campaigns Lead, Oxfam in the Pacific
Tuvalu’s Minister for Justice, Communications and Foreign Affairs, Hon. Simon Kofe speaks with Oxfam in the Pacific’s Influencing and Campaigns Lead, Debbie Singh about Tuvalu’s call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty made at COP27.
Last week, six Pacific Island countries signed on to the Port Vila Call for a Just Transition to a Fossil Fuel Free Pacific, an ambitious and historical call for a fossil fuel free Pacific.
The Port Vila Call for a Just Transition to a Fossil Fuel Free Pacific emanated from the Ministerial Dialogue held in Port Vila, Vanuatu last week which demands a phase-out of fossil fuel production and blames fossil-fuel producing countries for causing the climate crisis. The signatories – Tonga, Fiji, Niue, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu – acknowledged the cyclones as the latest example of “fossil fuel-induced loss and damage” in the region.
“The Pacific has been at the forefront of the fight against climate change for quite some time now, due to the fact that we are living with the reality of its effects on a daily basis. Unfortunately, world leaders have not been responding effectively to our calls for action. As a leader in the Pacific myself, I take it as my responsibility to warn the world about what is happening to us, because the effects of climate change will impact not only us, but also future generations,” Minister Kofe told Oxfam in the Pacific.
Question: Minister Kofe, Pacific leadership has long been central to international approaches to climate change as our region lives with the real impacts of the climate crisis every day. Pacific leaders have championed international agreements on climate change and endorsed key mechanisms such as the UN Framework Convention, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.
You have said that the world has seen treaties deliver when the world has needed to manage, restrict and phase-out dangerous products, including weapons of mass destruction, ozone depleting substances and tobacco. Today, we see oil and gas are fuelling the war in Ukraine and elsewhere, and are a paramount danger, which demands that world governments rally behind a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Tuvalu has become the first country in the world to use the United Nations climate conferences to demand an international fossil fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty, which would gradually eliminate the use of coal, oil, and gas.
Please tell us about Tuvalu’s spearheading of this important influencing and advocacy work and how an international fossil fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty might contribute to advancing the goals of the Paris Agreement?
Response: The Pacific has been at the forefront of the fight against climate change for quite some time now, due to the fact that we are living with the reality of its effects on a daily basis. Unfortunately, world leaders have not been responding effectively to our calls for action. As a leader in the Pacific myself, I take it as my responsibility to warn the world about what is happening to us, because the effects of climate change will impact not only us, but also future generations. One of our key messages in Tuvalu is “Save Tuvalu, Save the World.” We believe that if action is not taken now to save Tuvalu, it may be too late to reverse the damage. It’s important to raise awareness about climate change among the wider population, not just leaders, because the power to make change lies with the people. Our approach to climate advocacy is to package our messaging in a way that can have a greater impact. For example, we have used viral videos and the metaverse to reach tech-savvy young people.
There has been work on the Fossil Fuels Non-Proliferation Treaty for a number of years, with the involvement of individual leaders, NGOs, and civil society. We were the first country to raise the issue at COP, and I may be the first Minister to call for it. The Treaty is still in its early stages, but we believe it is important to have such a Treaty in place because the Paris Agreement focuses on emissions, but we see countries expanding and supporting fossil fuel projects such as oil and gas. This is a contradictory stance, as these countries are making pledges to cut down on emissions while expanding fossil fuels. A Non-Proliferation Treaty would address the problem at the source, which we feel is missing from the Paris Agreement and outcomes of previous COP meetings. We believe that a more direct approach to addressing the problem is necessary. Countries need to commit to phasing out fossil fuels, and then transition plans can be put in place to help them move towards this goal. Unfortunately, we are not even close to achieving this right now, which is why we are pushing for this initiative.
Question: How has Tuvalu’s push for an international Non-Proliferation Treaty been received by the international community and global governments? Has this received the support which your government had hoped for at COP27?
Response: After the announcement, many countries approached the COP27 team, expressing interest in supporting the initiative, indicating momentum for the cause. Vanuatu and Tuvalu were the first to call for the initiative at the UNGA and COP, respectively. It’s essential to maintain the momentum and push the message out, encouraging more people to sign up for the initiative. There is already a petition on the initiative’s website, which people can sign up for.
Question: Minister, you have emphasised the need for both domestic action and international co-operation to stop the expansion of fossil fuel emissions and production and to fulfil the aims of the Paris Agreement.
- How is your government engaging your communities, indigenous groups and citizens in dialogue and understanding of the importance of phasing out fossil fuels?