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“We no longer have the luxury of time,” says Tupou VI at COP27

Sharm El-Sheikh, Eqypt

King Tupou VI and Hon. Hu'akavameiliku attending COP27, the UN Climate Change Conference. Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. 7 November 2022.

Climate change is the single greatest threat that will determine the future of Small Island Developing States like the Kingdom of Tonga, said King Tupou VI at COP27 this week, and “we no longer have the luxury of time."

“Our task in delivering for Our People and for Our Planet is to agree to goals with the highest ambition possible and act together before the impacts become irreversible for us all,” the king said when he addressed the 27th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27), on 7 November in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

King Tupou VI commended the outcomes from COP26 and noted that we will only be a step closer to our goals if every country delivers on their pledge.

"We are here to make progress from where we stood with the Glasgow Climate Pact and more importantly, with the commitments we made at the adoption of the Paris Agreement.

He said the theme chosen for the 27th Session of the Conference of the Parties, ‘Delivering for people and the planet’ “is both a timely and an essential reminder of the urgency of the task at hand for the survival of the Earth and for us its inhabitants. We no longer have the luxury of time”.

The King said 30 years ago, the United Nations charted a course in adopting the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and in 2015 we gave this journey a new “raison d’etre” in the Paris Agreement. At COP26, in Glasgow, parties increased ambition and kept the hope of 1.5 degrees alive.

“The inherent physical attributes of our islands in the Pacific Ocean make climate change the single greatest threat that will determine the future of Small Island Developing States like the Kingdom of Tonga. Tonga

“My Kingdom is the third most vulnerable country in the world to the adverse effects of climate change,” said the King.

"As a people, we share a deep connection to the Ocean. As with many other Pacific Island countries, Tonga is heavily dependent on its fisheries and ocean resources for food, transport, economic development, and culture.

“Historically the Tongan people have always shown resilience in the face of natural disasters.

“However, with record rates of increased coastal erosion, ocean acidification, loss of coral reefs coupled with the ever-present rising of sea-levels, three times higher than the global average, our ability to respond to the increasing multiplicity of disasters and the increasing severity and intensity of extreme weather patterns is now undermined."


The King also thanked the countries that had made a contribution to the recovery efforts of Tonga after the Hunga-Tonga Hunga-Ha'apai eruption and tsunamis in January this year.

“On the 15th of January, Tonga experienced a volcanic explosion equal to none in our living history. Homes were destroyed; lives were lost, and entire communities have become deeply traumatized by the sonic explosions and resulting tsunami waves. Population displacement has now become a permanent feature for my people.

“In the aftermath of the explosion, we experienced the care, compassion and support of the global community, and our neighboring countries in the response and recovery efforts.

"I acknowledge your kindness and the compassion shown towards the people of the Kingdom of Tonga."

Tupou VI
King Tupou VI addresses COP27, the UN Climate Change Conference. Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. 7 November 2022. Photo: David N. Sattler

Challenges after volcanic explosion

The King highlighted two key future challenges resulting from this unprecedented volcanic explosion. These included access to clean and safe drinking water. The pollution of rain-water in the aftermath of the volcanic explosion had highlighted the vulnerability of the water storage sites in the outer islands.

“This urgent reality places greater importance on the access to available stand-alone water desalination technologies that can operate on renewable energy.”

He said the second challenge, as an Ocean State, is to offer affordable transportation that does not add to Green House Gas Emissions.

“Our culture and history as peoples of the ocean has taught us to live in harmony with our environment. In the near future, we will need to urgently re-acquaint our people with such livelihoods and adopt cutting edge technologies that promote wind- powered, low carbon emitting modes of transport,” he said.

"As Small Island Developing States, we cannot face the challenges presented to all of us alone. We are firmly committed to international goals. In 2020, the Government of Tonga submitted its second Nationally Determine Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement, setting ambitious mitigation and adaptation goals.

“In addition, Tonga’s Long Term Low Emission Development Strategy (LT-LEDS) sets targets in sectors including energy, transport, waste management and the resettlement of communities."

Global objectives

“Global objectives must be directly translated into our mission and journey, charting a pathway for a resilient, sustainable and inclusive future for Tonga. Such goals and measures also support the implementation of the Tonga Climate Change Policy from 2016 and uphold the overarching goal of a climate change resilient Tonga by 2035.”

For Small Island Developing States like Tonga, adaptation to climate change generates larger benefits when delivered in conjunction with other development activities such as disaster risk reduction and community-based approaches to development.

“My Kingdom shares the concerns of the other countries of the Pacific Islands Forum. In solidarity, we endorsed the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent that highlights the challenges that we face as a region and symbolizes our drive to respond to our ever-changing environment.”

He said as the impacts of climate change are inter-generational and our actions and decisions today will have a major bearing on the future of our people.

"I am encouraged by the agendas at COP27 over the coming days. I hope that all of us here present will be inspired, motivated and driven into action on firm commitments, a sense of shared responsibility and connection with the global community.

“This will be a testament to genuine partnerships of all Parties, in raising ambitions and actions towards achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement.

“May we always keep in mind the impacts of our decisions and actions, here at COP27, as we chart our course towards a successful, prosperous and sustainable future. “A future where the well-being, survival and peace of future generations, are their inheritance."

The King thanked the UNFCCC Secretariat and staff, the Government of Egypt and the city of Sharm El-Sheikh.

Also attending COP27 is Prime Minister Hon. Hu'akavameiliku and other members of Tonga's delegation.

King Tupou VI and Queen Nanasipau'u with Hon. Hu'akavameiliku and other Tongan delegates Lord Fakafanua and Uili Lousi, at COP27, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. 7 November 2022. Photo: David N. Sattler.