Tuvalu PM tells COP26 his country is sinking

Tuvalu's Prime Minister, Kausea Natano, didn't mince his words as he told world leaders at COP26 about the grim reality of the climate crisis for his country.

"Tuvalu is sinking," he said of his atoll nation where 40 per cent of the capital, Funafuti, is already below sea level at high tide.

This reality coupled with rapidly rising sea level has placed Tuvalu's population under enormous threat, world leaders were told.

Tuvalu's plight was highlighted by Natano during the High-Level Segment of the Twenty-Sixth Conference of the Parties to the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland.

He wore a scarf gifted to him by the Aboriginal women of Australia displaying the colours of global warming, sending a strong message to the world that the people of Tuvalu need help.

"For atoll nations (like Tuvalu), the gravities of sea level rise are now unalterable and emission restrictions will no longer help us," Natano explained.

"For Tuvalu we urgently require the means to build raised reclamation land to save ourselves.

"We must take bold alternative actions today to secure tomorrow.

"Even if all greenhouse gas emissions cease tomorrow, Tuvalu and other low-lying atoll nations are sinking."

Natano is among the few Pacific national leaders who have been able to travel to the UK to attend the meeting in person.

Acknowledging the obstacles presented to travel for Pacific Islanders, he said the impact of climate change demonstrates the interconnected nature of the global community.

That global community, Natano pointed out, has a shared responsibility to address climate change.

"Mr President, we must conclude negotiations on the Paris Rulebook and safeguard the integrity of the Paris Agreement. We must urgently call on major emitters to take stronger climate action."

Although steadfast in calling for global urgent action to limit global warming at 1.5 degrees, Natano sadness in his tone when he told world leaders about the reality in his island state.

He highlighted the need for large-scale climate finance and new funding windows for loss and damage.

"We must also realise that these steps may not help countries like Tuvalu that are irreversibly affected by climate change.

"For Tuvalu, we must fast track large-scale climate finance that are easy to access for bold long-term and permanent adaptation solutions," Natano said.

"Whatever our progress in combatting climate change there would likely be countries who cannot adapt, and we would see significant loss and damage even at safer temperature levels.

"Given this, we must immediately develop new financing mechanisms and funding windows for loss and damage.

"We must preserve our statehood and sovereignty and develop legal mechanisms to recognise our maritime boundaries as permanent despite the impact of sea level rise."

Although most of the discourse was taking place at Glasgow, Tuvalu's Foreign Minister, Simon Kofe, held a press conference of a different kind, standing in a suit up to his waist in the sea, to press home the impacts of the climate crisis.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Natano also revealed that at COP26, Tuvalu has signed an agreement with the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda to establish a Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law.

"The Commission is authorized to request advisory opinions from the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea on the legal responsibilities of States for carbon emissions, marine pollution and rising sea level.

"We must support initiatives of this nature to develop and implement fair and just global and environmental norms and practices."