Tonga supports “Commonwealth Call to Action on Living Lands”

23 June 2022

Kigali, RWANDA – The Prime Minister, Honourable Hua’akavameiliku told a ‘Commonwealth Climate Breakfast Meeting’ here in Kigali today that Tonga supports the Commonwealth Call to Action On Living Lands.

The breakfast meeting was held as a side event to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2022 (CHOGM2022) being held here in Rwanda.

Speaking at the event earlier today, Hon Hu’akavameiliku says Government and the people of Tonga fully support the mandate, as the need to commit to actions that would help in tackling climate issues is urgent.

The Living Lands Charter looks to address the issues of climate change, biodiversity loss and land degradation.

It will be presented before Commonwealth Leaders here in Kigali for their consideration and endorsement.

Hon Hu’akavameiliku told the meeting that Tonga is committed to support the finalization and implementation of the Commonwealth Living Lands Charter and the Call to Action on Living Lands beyond CHOGM2022.

“I believe we all agree that with ever greater urgency we must support climate adaptation, biodiversity and land enrichment measures to protect our communities and give younger generations hope for a sustainable future,” Hon Hu’akavameiliku told the meeting this morning.

Tonga has called for stronger partnerships and renewed commitment between the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Rio Conventions to continue working collectively in the implementation of the work programme of the Commonwealth Call to Action on Living Lands.

Hon Hu’akavameiliku added that Tonga is calling for increased global funding and investment towards land and other nature-based actions within the context of a post COVID-19 recovery.

“It is my fervent hope that the Commonwealth Call to Action on Living Lands will be a testament to our genuine partnerships and the shared commitment to action to tackle these urgent challenges,” Hon Hu’akavameiliku stated.

“Our survival and that of our children and future generations is at stake. This survival depends on our decisions and actions about our precious living lands and oceans.

“Let us be leaders, let us be responsible, let us make the right choice, let us work together and let us act now.”

Tonga update

Hon Hu’akavameiliku, while thanking the Government and people of Rwanda for hosting CHOGM2022, said Tonga is one of the world’s most disaster-prone and climate vulnerable country.

“We continue to face tremendous and highly complex pressures as we strive to recover from the triple disaster experienced in January this year,” he told the meeting.

That included the January 15 volcanic eruption, tsunami and heavy ashfalls, which affected more than 85% of Tonga’s people..

Damages incurred equaled 24% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

That was followed by COVID-19 on February 1, 2022.

“The triple shock experienced at the beginning of the year adds to our longstanding effort to manage the combination of the increasingly threatening climate change, biodiversity loss and land degradation. All these combined, makes it ever more challenging to achieve our Sustainable Development Goals,” Hon Hu’akavameiliku said.

Tonga has suffered more than seven (7) devastating major cyclones in the decade from 2011 to 2020.

The country records 6.4 millimetre of sea level rise per year plus on average higher ocean temperatures that has seen increasing coral bleaching around the country’s reefs.

Record rates of coastal erosion, overflow and flash flooding continues to be seen as saltwater intrusion affecting groundwater quality, leading to low crop yields are also reported.

Hon Hu’akavameiliku added that droughts and increased erosion of coastal areas and habitats continues to increase.

“The changes to our living habitat will accelerate and increasingly deteriorate living space with more warming and the continued irresponsible use of our lands and oceans. When you are a Small Island Developing State such as Tonga, you depend on the land and ocean environments for your life and livelihood. For us, this is who we are and this is a matter of survival.”

Thank you

Hon Hu’akavameiliku also took the opportunity to thank the Commonwealth Secretariat and member countries for supporting Tonga in building a resilient country and assisting in Tonga’s immediate response and recovery from the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcanic eruption and tsunami.

The breakfast meeting was attended by various member country representatives and people working in the climate change circle.

Commonwealth Secretary General The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC also spoke at the meeting.