Tuvalu News

Sinking Situation Scary, Says Prime Minister

Friday: May 26, 2006

(PacNewsService) - Low-lying nations such as Tuvalu are slowing slipping under the waves and only dramatic steps, such as legal action against big polluter the United States, might stem the tide, Tuvalu Prime Minister Maatia Toafa said.

His tiny South Pacific nation is a cluster of islands and atolls with a land area of just 26 square kilometres (10 sq mile). Land where he fished as a child is now under water. He blames global warming.

Tuvalu, just like the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, feels they are victims of energy-hungry economies, such as the United States, Europe and Asia whose industries and transport belch vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the air.

“I would say the situation is very scary now,” Toafa told Reuters in Tokyo, prior to a two-day leaders' summit of Japan and 14 Pacific island nations that starts today.

“Even recently, one of the islands by (our) main island capital just disappeared,” he added. “It will be very sad if Tuvalu actually disappears. So we only hope that everybody makes an effort to reverse global warming -- that is our only hope.”

Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Many scientists say rapidly increasing levels of these gases is warming the planet, causing glaciers and ice sheets to melt and sea levels to rise.

The issue is set to top the agenda at the meeting on Japan's southern island of Okinawa.

Tuvalu will keep fighting, Toafa said, adding that one part of the fight might involve legal action against the United States, the world's top emitter of carbon dioxide.

Tuvalu would seek compensation as well as symbolic recognition of its situation in perhaps two to three years.

“It's just a matter of time for us to be able to prove if there is a strong case, and then definitely we will do something about that,” he said.

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