Australia is Trying to Buy off Small Islands at Copenhagen Climate Talks

Pressure is clearly building on poor countries to back down from strong climate targets here in Copenhagen. At a powerful press conference this morning, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu accused Australia of setting up a private meeting with a number of small island states and trying to bribe them into accepting the 2 degrees C target that would mean extinction for their islands.

At a press conference that is just wrapping up at the UN climate talks, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu had a clear message for the world: “Survival is not-negotiable.” After showing a powerful video of devastating flooding in Tuvalu, the President made a strong appeal for a real deal that meets the latest science: “Our future rests on global action to address climate change and we must have a set of safe guards based on sound science. We must ensure that global temperatures peak at well below 1.5 degrees Celsius. It means that global greenhouse gases must stabilize at 350 ppm. These safeguards are non-negotiable.”

Prime Minister Ielemia also highlighted the immense amount of pressure that small island states are coming under to accept a weak deal: “Under the last few days we have seen considerable pressure to accept a deal based around 2 degrees limit. We have not yielded to this pressure because our future is not negotiable.” He highlighted pressure from Australia in particular:

“There are some countries like Australia who have been trying to arrange a meeting with us to probably water down our position on 1.5 degrees celsius. We did not attend that meeting, but I heard from other small islands that Australia was trying to tell them if they agree to the 2 degrees limit, money would be on the table for adaptation process. That’s there choice to accept the money and back down. But Tuvalu will not. As I said in my speech, 1.5 degrees celsius is our bottom line…

I as a human being I feel that the leaders that are pushing their countries to adopt this 2 degrees they should know from science that that will be killing a lot of people around the world, that should change their position. I will not sign anything less than 1.5.”

Those are brave words. Australia and other rich countries will continue to increase the pressure on developing countries to back down. Get ready for the media to get involved as well: articles blaming poor countries for the failure of the talks are already beginning to circulate. But Tuvalu and many others know that no amount of money can protect their homes or their future: they need action, not bribery. When asked about what he would do if an agreement could not be reached and climate change not stopped, the Prime Minister closed his speech with a touching appeal,

We just have to prepare ourselves for the worst. We have no where to run to. We must prepare ourselves individually, family wise, so that we no what to do when a cyclone comes or the hurricane blows. There is no mountain we can climb up, no inland we can run to. We just have the face it. And that’s why we’re making noises around the world … We don’t want to dissappear from this Earth.

We want to exist as a nation. Because we have a fundamental right to exist alongside yourselves.

Australia needs to hear he message loud and clear that they can’t bully smaller countries into backing down from what science says is necessary. Tuvalu and other island nations are fighting on all of our behalf. As President Nasheed of the Maldives has said, “If we can’t save the Maldives today, we won’t be able to save Mumbai or New York City tomorrow.”

Please pass this post along and spread put the spotlight on Australia’s dirty tricks. Island’s need funding for adaptation, but they also need real emissions cuts and a strong, legally binding treaty.

Tuvalu isn’t backing down and neither should we.

7 Responses to “Australia is Trying to Buy off Small Islands at Copenhagen Climate Talks”

  1. 1 Craig Altemose Dec 17th, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Great article Jamie!

    Let’s all stand with Tuvalu!

  2. 2 lavinia Dec 17th, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    Australian people stand with Tuvalu, I went on the walk on saturday. We help our neighbours just because they are our neighbours, its the aussie way

  3. 3 Arjun Dec 17th, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Australia has the worlds highest per capita carbon emission.

    Australia is the worst delinquent (borderline criminal) when it comes to carbon emission. IMO some of the most stringent carbon emission reduction norms should be enforced on Australia with the threat of tough economic penalties if they fail to comply with the norms.

  4. 4 Russell Cunning Dec 18th, 2009 at 3:54 am

    The credibility of the article would be much higher if somebody checked the spelling and the facts.

    ‘That’s there [their] choice…’, ‘…so that we no [know] what to do….’

    By the way – in Ukraine at the moment it is nine degrees cooler than normal. It would normally be ten degrees C below zero, but it is currently minus nineteen C (-19 C).

  5. 5 Cadence May 21st, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    Ok. Good points.,Fandel

  1. 1 Climate Indymedia: Copenhagen agreement fails UN processes and the planet | What is COP15? Trackback on Dec 23rd, 2009 at 5:19 am
  2. 2 Australia at Copenhagen « Climate Change Social Change Trackback on Jan 12th, 2010 at 1:39 am
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About Jamie

Jamie is the co-coordinator of, an international global warming campaign. A recent college graduate, he lives in San Francisco, CA. In 2007, he co-organized Step It Up, a campaign that pulled together over 2,000 climate rallies across the United States to push for strong climate action at the federal level. He's also an early member of the youth climate movement, leading one of Energy Action's first campaigns in 2005: Road to Detroit, a nationwide veggie-oil bus tour to promote sustainable transportation. He's traveled to Montreal and Bali to lobby the UN with youth, but he's a strong believer that change happens in the streets not in meetings. Jamie received the Morris K. Udall award in 2007 and has been recognized by the mighty state of Vermont for his work on climate change. You can also find him blogging at Campus Progress' "Pushback,", and

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