One of the smallest delegations at the COP 27 is from the small Pacific island nation of Niue, led by the island’s only female minister, Hon. Esa Mona Ainuu. An estimated 33,449 participants representing 195 state parties and observers are at the COP27 in Sharma El-Sheikh, including Niue’s delegation of seven.
The Minister of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Climate Change, Hon. Ainuu is also the Pacific’s Political Champion on Gender and Social Inclusion at this global conference.
Several hours ago, she delivered Niue’s national statement echoing the calls from small island states to amplify their voices on the many issues raised over the past ten days in Sharma El-Sheikh.
Ainuu said that the drum beats are sounding louder and with great urgency in anticipation of action to change the tone of the drum beats from the sounds of despair to the sounds of celebration for our future generations.
“I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors, beating and echoing the drums for our survival, for our future, and for the generations yet to come. The drumbeats are getting louder, with greater urgency for action.
COP 27 is an implementation COP. Let’s make it happen. Let’s turn those drumbeats from our islands to be sounds of celebration, sounds of action, and not sounds of despair.
Let’s change the drumbeats to action, innovative, and sounds of joy. It starts with us as world leaders”.
Minister Ainuu also the first Pacific Political Champion of Gender and Social Inclusion, spoke of the realities facing women and girls and vulnerable citizens of the Pacific, made worse by the impacts of climate change.
“As a Champion for Social Inclusion and Gender, I am reminded of the realities women and girls face every day – from experiencing domestic violence, and bearing the burden of unpaid work, to barriers limiting their economic empowerment and participation in public life. And if this isn’t enough, they with other marginalized communities, have to deal with the disproportionate impacts of climate change. I urge all of us to include women, girls, children, youth, and persons with disabilities in all our decision-making and actions.”
Two months ago, the Family Relationship Bill passed the first reading of the Niue Legislative Assembly, providing for the very first time, protection against domestic violence in Niue.
Esa Mona Ainuu is pleading with world leaders to do something to change the future we leave for our children and future generations.
“Let’s drown out the cries of despair and calm the beating hearts of fear from our kids and our vulnerable communities, assuring them that all will be ok.
Like many small island nations, Niue has struggled with limited capacity to access climate finance.
“We call for timely access to climate finance, delivered through modalities with the least amount of transaction cost, and commensurate with our absorptive capacity. These are the sounds that we seek, and we look to you our partners to join us in our journey. Let’s honour the drumbeats by availing those climate funds promised to us; expedite their release so we can address loss and damage, and streams of program activities set out for execution, and work in unity to reach a common goal.
“Niue has done everything that we possibly can to access climate finance to help us mitigate and adapt. There are large disparities in accessing Climate finance. This is an unacceptable situation for island countries whose existence is under threat.
Niue continues to take bold steps with our new innovative solution. We do this because we simply do not have the time to navigate the camel’s eye, to find the pass-code, to unlock that elusive treasure chest”.
In a world-first initiative to generate revenue, Niue developed the innovative Ocean Conservation Credits (OCC) for the small island to help with its marine conservation efforts. “We have developed a home-grown innovative solution; to raise funds for climate adaption and mitigation, using our blue ocean and through our commitments to ocean conservation and protection. This is a world-first, environment, and non-financial instrument called Ocean Conservation Credit.
“Our objective is to establish a Niue and Ocean Wide Trust Fund, that can provide a consistent funding stream to help our climate mitigation and adaptation priorities. The funding mechanism is scalable and replicable. Our goal is to raise at least $32 million to capitalise our Trust Fund and make available $1.5 million annually for 20 years. The $32 million is based on the aggregated costs of protecting and maintaining 1 square km of the Moana Mahu Marine Protected Area comprising 40% of Niue’s EEZ or 127,000 square kilometres.”
The Niue delegation will return to the expectations of a small island with fewer than two thousand people, living in anticipation that some benefits will result from this very long trip to the other side of the world.
More than half of the population live in the coastal villages and have been advised to relocate to higher grounds, but in order to do that, they need resources to relocate. In the meantime, they risk their lives staying where they are, hoping and praying that this cyclone season will not bring another devastating category 5 cyclone the island experienced in 2004.
Of the small Niue delegation COP27, some of them have lived through and experienced a category 5 Cyclone and the destruction it did to their homes.
Niue’s Climate Change Officer with the Department of Environment was six years old when Cyclone Heta devastated the west coast of the island, destroying his home.
The Niue government is still trying to rebuild government infrastructure lost during Cyclone Heta in January 2004, the island lost its Courthouse and Justice building. Over the past eighteen years, the Niue High Court has been sitting in conference rooms, the local golf, and sports club, and a church hall.
The island is now into the third week of the cyclone season which will end in March 2023.