Tuvaluan representative Simon Kofe delivered a speech to delegates at the United Nations climate talks in Glasgow in a memorable way this week by standing in the rising seawater he was warning the world about. In the four-minute-long video, Kofe, the Tuvaluan minister of Justice, Communication and Foreign Affairs, explained there is no time left for speeches because coastal areas are flooding, and not just in small island nations like his.
Since then, images of Kofe recording a speech to the UN Cop26 climate summit standing knee-deep in the sea have been widely shared on social media over recent days, amassing global support for our nation. Kofe states,
“We didn’t think it would go viral as we saw over the last few days. We have been very pleased with that and hopefully that carries the message and emphasises the challenges that we are facing in Tuvalu at the moment.”
Delegates in Glasgow watched Kofe’s recording from the blue waters of the South Pacific more than halfway through the COP26 meetings. Kofe explains in his speech that the South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu is disappointed with the outcome of the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, fearing it will fail to hold back global warming and worsen the threat of rising sea levels facing low lying countries and calls for governments to strive for net-zero emissions, increase funding for climate support, and keep global temperatures from increasing more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Further, Kofe said the summit pact sealed on Saturday should have called for the phasing out, rather than phasing down, of coal use, a late change spurred by coal-dependent India and China. Big emitters, including South Pacific neighbour Australia, should have committed to more ambitious emissions reduction targets at Glasgow to help limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
"We were disappointed with the last minute change to the language around coal from 'phasing out' to 'phasing down'. I think we were quite disappointed as well as other Pacific island countries with that last-minute change,"
Kofe told Reuters.
Without a more aggressive global support, the loss of land, culture and life is imminent for the Tuvaluan nation and it's 12,000 people. “We’re actually imagining a worst-case scenario where we are forced to relocate or our lands are submerged,” Kofe, told Reuters in an interview.
Watch only a fraction of the speech that captivated the world.