Greenpeace backs Kiribati President’s call for an end to coal

Press release - 13 August, 2015
South Tarawa, Kiribati, 13 August 2015 - Kiribati President Anote Tong today called for a global and immediate moratorium on all new coal mines and coal mine expansions, and has called on all State leaders to back his call to action in the lead up to the Paris climate talks in December.

“Kiribati, as a nation faced with a very uncertain future, is calling for a global moratorium on new coal mines. It would be one positive step towards our collective global action against climate change and it is my sincere hope that you and your people would add your positive support in this endeavour,” said President Tong.

“Let us join together as a global community and take action now. The construction of each new coal mine undermines the spirit and intent of any agreement we may reach, particularly in the upcoming COP 21 in Paris, whilst stopping new coal mine constructions now will make any agreement reached in Paris truly historical.

“As leaders, we have a moral obligation to ensure that the future of our children, our grandchildren and their children is safe and secure. For their sake, I urge you to support this call for a moratorium on new coal mines and coal mine expansions.”

The Executive Director of Greenpeace International, Dr. Kumi Naidoo, is in Kiribati to bear witness to the effects of climate change on the small island nation.

“The people of Kiribati are refusing to be silenced by reckless governments and corporations that are perpetuating climate change, and which in turn is causing rising sea-levels. I join President Tong in calling on all leaders of similarly threatened islands to stand together and demand climate justice.”

“I have now seen first hand what a sea level rise means for the people of Kiribati. It is not some scientific modelling or projection - it is real, it is happening now and it will only get worse.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment stressed that sea level rise projected this century will present 'severe flood and erosion risks' for low-lying islands, with the potential also for degradation of freshwater resources.

Every high tide now carries with it the potential for damage and flooding. In some places the sea level is rising by 1.2 centimetres a year, four times faster than the global average. [1] This means that 80 per cent of coal reserves must remain unused if we are to have any chance at protecting nations like Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and the Philippines. [2]

A recent study by researchers at the University College London stressed that “it has been estimated that to have at least a 50 per cent chance of keeping warming below 2 °C throughout the twenty-first century, the cumulative carbon emissions between 2011 and 2050 need to be limited to around 1,100 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (Gt CO2).” [3]

“We know the science and we know the end of the age of coal is coming. Scrambling to dig up more dirty coal can only be driven by ignorance or sheer disregard for the millions of people at risk from burning it. We need international leadership on this issue and a planned retreat from coal involving a just transition for existing workers and developed in consultation with affected communities,“ said Dr Naidoo.

The moratorium call is intended to sit outside the formal negotiating text of the CoP and stand alone as a clear action that all countries can commit to immediately.

Greenpeace is working with community groups and civil society in countries in the Pacific to demand climate justice. In June 2015, people from climate-impacted communities from Tuvalu, Kiribati, Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands as well as representatives from the Philippines vowed to seek 'Climate Justice' during a meeting on board the Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior, The People's Declaration for Climate Justice was handed over to the President of Vanuatu.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

To read the letter from the President to world leaders, click here.

[1] Nurse, L.A., et. al., 2014: “Small islands in: Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability”. Part B: Regional Aspects. & Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Barros, V.R., et. al.(eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, pp. 1613-1654.

[2] 80 per cent of coal reserves must remain unused, sourced here.

[3] McGlade, C., & Ekins, P. (2015) “The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2°C”. Nature 517 (8 January 2015): 187-190

Media contact:

Greenpeace International Press Desk, , phone: +31 (0)20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)

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