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Tuvalu

Will COP26 make a difference?

In front of the world’s eyes and ears, it all got very personal for one of Tuvalu’s 11,990 citizens.

The fact that Seve Paeniu is the climate minister for the low-lying atoll nation had little to do with the politics.

The voice got a bit croaky, and the eyes certainly were glassy on the floor of the climate change summit.

“Climate change is real – there is no politics in climate change,” he said.

The line came with a warning against perverting climate change for political needs that drew an applause from surrounding delegates.

But emotions started to carry over when the 56-year-old reflected on the actions of a European Union member, just the day before, showing off a picture of his grandson and talking of a world without global warming.

Tuvalu minister
Tuvalu minister for climate change Seve Paeniu at the climate change conference. Photo: Twitter

Paeniu then reached forward on his desk and pulled out his mobile phone that stored an image of his three grandchildren beaming back.

“I keep looking at their photos every single night after returning from these halls, thinking what would I tell them upon my return from Glasgow,” he said, still holding out the phone.

“I will now be able to tell them that Glasgow has made a promise to secure them their future.

“That will be the best ever Christmas gift I will be able to present to them.”

Delegates in principle agreed to deliver on retaining temperatures with 1.5C degrees.

For Tuvalu’s sake, Paeniu hoped the summit was not all talk and no action.

“Glasgow has delivered a strong message of hope, a strong message of promise,” he said.

“Glasgow has delivered a strong message of ambition.

“What is left now is for us to deliver on that promise.”

That plea came after a climate change envoy from Marshall Islands told the gathering on Saturday that no longer could Pacific island states take no for an answer.

Tina Stege said the last round of UN climate talks in 2019 ended in disarray and that she had to return to the Marshall Islands to inform her children that the world had failed to deliver progress.

“I am not willing to leave here with nothing,” she said two years later.

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On the front line of climate change, the analysis of the proposed deal was that it does not do enough to protect small islands from sinking.

But rejecting the offer was not a credible option – and it was time to swallow a bitter pill of reality.

“It is not perfect – it is not without fault,” Ms Stege said.

“But it does represent real progress, and that is what we need at this moment.

“We cannot afford no progress.”

The Fijian delegates struggled even more to accept the watered-down proposal.

They tried to introduce language changes over loss and damage provisions, but were given an excuse that their amendment was too late to consider.

“It’s rather ironic that around two hours ago we discussed the text, and now there is an amendment being made to that — and that I would call last-minute, without any due process being followed,” Minister responsible for climate change Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said.

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