Statement by Vice President Leo A. Falcam
Third Conference of the Parties
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Kyoto, Japan, December 9, 1997
Check Against Delivery
MR PRESIDENT, distinguished Heads of State, honorable Ministers,
colleagues, ladies and gentlemen:
I come here today to sound a note of sadness and indignation
at the state of these negotiations. But first, I should put my
remarks in context.
The period of my country's emergence into membership in the
community of Nations coincides roughly with the timeframe when
Mankind began to take seriously the threat of human-induced,
adverse effects upon the Earth's climate. In those days, we in
Micronesia were focused on our political development, and did
not yet know that our first external challenge would be to fight
for the very ground on which our ancestors lived.
For several centuries our people endured occupation and wartime
destruction at the hands of others, for the sake of interests
not our own. Now, we are confronted by the fact that the industrial
powers have yet another, and this time permanent' annihilation
to visit upon us. More shocking still, the instrument of this
destruction - a helpless agent of the developed world, is to
be the Ocean - the Mother of our culture - our Provider.
And so, throughout our greater community of small islands,
the bright promise of new nationhood has been overshadowed from
the outset by a grim and gathering drumbeat of unfamiliar terms
such as "climate change," "global warming,"
"greenhouse gases" and "sea-level rise."
The Preamble to the Constitution of the Federated States of
Micronesia states that the oceans do not separate us, rather,
they bind us together. That statement applies not only to islanders
but to the World as a whole. It has particular relevance to our
common objective of protecting the global climate. We are all
islanders, bonded together by the seas. The oceans symbolize
not isolation, hut togetherness. I fear, however, that we have
lost sight of that important reality.
As I stand here today, the nations of the World luxuriate
in a mixed scientific and intellectual debate over climate change,
which sounds all-too-much like the never-ending North/South economic
discussion, in a different venue. But, from the viewpoint of
ourselves in Micronesia and others throughout the region of the
Pacific islands, and of islanders around the World, we must
deal with the challenge of global climate change in a more urgent
sense, that is, in terms of our cultural and geographic mortality.
Our capacity for defense against climate change, unaided,
is limited within the short-term, and probably hopeless in the
long run. But the worst of it is that if insufficient action
is taken to secure the Convention's Objective, the islands cannot
even usefully serve as the canary in the coal mine. By the time
our islands become the first casualties it will be too late for
the rest of the World to avoid its own subsequent devastation.
By necessity, my country is a veteran of this process. having
participated from the beginning. Throughout' we have made common
cause with like-minded countries through membership in the Group
of 77 and China, and the Alliance of Small Island States. We
have spoken constantly and consistently, at every INC and at
previous Conferences of the Parties, of the urgent necessity
for significant cuts in greenhouse gas emissions by the developed
Two years ago, the Berlin Mandate gave us strong hope that
we would arrive in Kyoto to adopt a pre-negotiated, legally binding
instrument amounting to a serious first step on a path of emissions
reductions by developed countries, consistent with the clearly-expressed
principles of the Framework Convention. That is what was
mandated. But now, a cold chill of doubt saps our previous faith
in the will of the developed country parties to follow through,
even in their own interests - not to mention their treaty commitments.
The circumstance that confronts us here today threatens to
render quite meaningless all the apparent progress made in previous
meetings. It is nothing less than unconscionable that in the
face of scientific consensus' and after years of work pursuant
to binding treaty commitments, the developing countries at Kyoto
are met with a gun to our head - to be told that in order to
have the developed countries accept the most lukewarm limitation
targets aimed more at non-intrusiveness than at the Convention's
Objective, we must step outside the Mandate, and through some
undefined process, take on commitments that the Mandate expressly
forbids. We are left to wonder whether there was ever any
serious commitment to the Berlin Mandate.
You may think, Mr. President, that we, and our developing
country partners are being politically unrealistic, or worse,
that we seek to impose Draconian measures on the developed world
while expecting a free ride That is certainly the thrust of recent
media campaigns by some of our wealthy adversaries. But this
false suggestion should be laid to rest.
First of all, the developing countries have never attempted
to opt out of commitments toward achieving the Convention's Objective.
The Framework Convention itself sets forth obligations for developing
countries, which are being met. Second, irrespective of the Convention,
the major developing countries that seem to be the focus of future
concern are already taking very significant actions unilaterally
to curie the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. These measures
are documented in papers made available to this Conference. There
is no "free ride" mentality here.
Finally, it has always been, and remains the position of my
country that we will join others in finding how we, as a small-island
developing State, can best fit into the worldwide effort to overcome
the threat of global warming as we develop socially and economically.
We will do our part. But never forget that the Framework Convention
recognizes and provides, we cannot do it alone.
We are shocked by the apparent state of the negotiations here
at Kyoto. It seems that the basic thrust of the Framework Convention
has been stood on its head. The failure of the developed countries
to take up their mandated leadership role, and instead' to look
to the developing world for flexibility and compromise, is impossible
to understand given the origin and nature of the climate change
If this Conference winds up as nothing more than another collision
of economic interests, all of us will have missed the crucial
point. Even more serious, this is the end of the line. This is
where all the discussions ongoing since Berlin converge. If the
enemies of the process succeed, this will be their finest hour.
I can speak only for my country. I can only ask that you,
Mr. President, somehow find a way to cut through the jungle of
the customary conflicts and lead us onto common ground. For the
sake of future generations that must live on this planet, and
after these long years of effort, we must not fail.
Thank you, Mr. President.