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Pacific Islands

Tonga at UN Climate Change Conference COP26

Glasgow, United Kingdom

Tonga's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, H.E. Hon. Fanetupouvava'u Tu'ivakano, at COP26. Glasgow, 11 November 2021. Photo: Tongan High Commission.

The dangerous effects of climate change continue to threaten Tonga's environment as well as the livelihoods and future existence of our people, Tonga's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, H.E. Hon. Fanetupouvava'u Tu'ivakano told the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference, Wednesday, in presenting Tonga's National Statement.

"Survival of our children and future generations of our small and most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change impacts, critically depend on decisions made here in Glasgow at COP26," she concluded yesterday, 10 November.

Over 120 countries are represented at COP26 running from 31 October to 12 November, hosted by the United Kingdom in partnership with Italy.

Hon. Fanetupouvava'u said Tonga emphasized the critical imperative in securing the net zero emission target by 2050, in order to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century.

“Anything beyond the 1.5oC threshold would spell absolute catastrophe for Tonga, [the] Pacific, the Small Island States and the world at large,” she said, in assuring the full support of the Tonga delegation in the critical work of the global climate summit.

“The Paris Agreement was a first step by the global community toward ensuring the very survival, of not only my country and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS), but more importantly: this planet earth that we call home. 

“We are here in Glasgow to progress our work, under this Landmark Agreement, and to stand in global solidarity urging all countries to work together to address the challenges and to accelerate actions to tackle the climate crisis,” she said.

Pressing concern for Small Island States

The Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was unequivocal in its findings that humans are directly responsible for the observed changes in the climate.

“These changes will deteriorate with more warming, some will be irreversible and some other effects will have existential ramifications for many of the peoples living on atolls and survival from the impacts of climate change is nowhere else the most pressing concern and danger than in Small Islands Developing States, like the Kingdom of Tonga,” she said.

"The effects of climate change continue to threaten the environment, land, the ocean and the marine resources, upon which, the livelihood and existence of our people, depend very much on."

She also pointed to what Tonga has experienced:

  1. Increased intensity and frequency of tropical cyclones with the four tropical cyclones in less than a month, during our last cyclone season in February of this year;
  2. Sea level rise with an average of 6.4mm per year over the last decade;
  3. Higher ocean temperature result in coral bleaching of the country’s reefs; (iv) Record rates of coastal erosion, overflow and flash flooding;
  4. Salt water intrusion affecting groundwater quality and increase soil salinization resulting in the reduction of crop yields;
  5. Drought leading to water scarcity, especially the outer islands where rainwater is the only source of water;
  6. Loss of critical infrastructures, assets and habitats in coastal areas.

“The need to support climate adaptation measures to protect our communities and natural ecosystems is of great urgency,” she said.

Tongan Kiu Kaho (right), panelist at the event “All in for 1.5C Are you?” at COP26 Business Pavilion. Glasgow. November 2021.

Zero Emission target

The High Commissioner said that Tonga is committed to ensure rapid progression at the national level, towards implementing the necessary actions toward achieving the ambitious targets under its Second Nationally Determined Contribution and Long-Term Low Emission Development Strategies. 

But indicators show that the world is not on that path of meeting the 1.5 degrees goal, she said.


Furthermore, Tonga continues to use its National Adaptation Plan (Tonga JNAP2) to dialogue with donors and partners to secure technical and financial support to implement all of our adaptation actions for a resilient Tonga. 

The High Commissioner said the Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum at their 51st meeting endorsed the Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate-Change Related Sea Level Rise.

Hon. Fanetupouvava'u delivered the Kingdom of Tonga National Statement at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 26th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP26), which also served as the 16th Session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol and the 3rd Session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement. PDF iconNational Statement_ Tonga COP26 - 11Nov final.pdf

Tonga’s Minister for MEIDECC and Climate Change Hon. Poasi Tei, and his CEO (and Tonga’s Chief Negotiator) Paula Ma’u, tracked the negotiations from Tonga.

Tongan environmental activist

Meanwhile, one environmental activist travelled from Tonga to attend COP26.

Tongan Uili Lousi, said that it took him almost four days, with COVID-19 testing along the way, to fly via New Zealand, Los Angeles and London. “But it is worth it. The solution is called the survival of humanity,” he said.

Uili is representing Tonga's OHAI Incorporated as a climate change activist and ambassador as well as in his profession as an international artist. He joined the Day of Action March with a Tongan flag. (OHAI Tonga is a non-governmental organization dedicated to addressing climate change in Tonga and the Pacific.)

Tongan Uili Lousi made Tonga's presence visible at COP26 in Glasgow. November 2021.

COP26 is the biggest international summit the UK has ever hosted.