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"Let no one be left behind" - Cook Islands at the 31st IMO Assembly

Media Release from Te Kauono Tutara e te Mana Tiaki - Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Immigration

On 3 December 2019, the Cook Islands through its Permanent Representative to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Captain Ian Finley, addressed the 31st Assembly of the IMO in London. The statement delivered by Captain Finley is extracted in full below:

Kia Orana,

President, Secretary General, Honourable Ministers, Excellences, Fellow Delegates

“Let no one be left behind”

The Cook Islands is a Small Island Developing State comprising of 15 small islands with an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of nearly 2 million sq km in the South Pacific Ocean. Globally, the Cook Islands contribute to only 0.00012% of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions, while collectively our region is 0.03% which I would put to you is an insignificant amount relative to the total global emissions.

President, the Cook Islands has carved a pathway of low carbon development to strengthen climate resilience and further reduce its carbon footprint to achieve its national vision, which is ‘to enjoy the highest quality of life consistent with the aspirations of our people, and in harmony with our culture and environment'.

The Cook Islands believe that by aspiring to its national vision it is striving to keep the overall global, indeed average temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius. The lead, however, must be taken by the world’s most developed economies (the G20), all of whom serve on the IMO council and whom contribute a staggering 78 percent of all emissions. President - currently, only five of these G20 countries have committed to a long-term zero emissions target.

[Special shipping needs] – President ... Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) including the Cook Islands, as microstates with extremely narrow and vulnerable economies, often very far from major markets, subject to monopolies and external market shocks, present a unique a complex challenge to international organisations such as the IMO. It is important that particular attention and recognition continues to be given to such states by the IMO and other UN agencies. We appreciate the assistance provided through GloMEEP, the MTCCs and the forthcoming GreenVoyage 2050 project. We recognise in particular the partnership forged between the IMO and our Regional Agencies SPC and SPREP, but we also need to recognise that more can and should be done to protect those of us who are most vulnerable to our changing world, including in the consideration of measures being taken to try to mitigate such changes. At the same time, since we ourselves can do little to reduce such impacts directly, we are preparing ourselves for a different reality, and that means building a strong and resilient economy and infrastructure in order to adapt to the changing conditions we are now facing. This means an increasing dependence on reliable, efficient and consistent shipping services to meet these challenges.

[SDG linkage ships and shipping] – Most, if not all the SDGS are dependent on or linked to ships. Shipping is an industry that serves 90% of world trade while emitting only 2.3% of carbon emissions.

Of particular interest to our Pacific region are those SDGs addressing the alleviation of poverty, ensuring food security, promoting a resilient economy and support of our tourism industry which is the mainstay of our economy. Without the ships that we are dependent on such SDG targets cannot possibly be met and our islands, already vulnerable to climate change impacts, would be further penalised.

President - It is of paramount importance that consideration is given to the impact on LDCs /SIDS when developing and importantly before adopting legislation.

“Let no one be left behind”

It is imperative IMO members understand the complex and unique problems facing small island developing states, their vulnerability to even the smallest increases in costs further up the economic supply chain, limited economic opportunities and total dependence on shipping. The impacts for example as evidenced by the sulphur cap on fuel coming into effect with a 7/8 increase in freight rates to our islands are clear to see. President, it is not just a question of undertaking a desk study of such impacts from an office of academics in a northern hemisphere developed region to determine such things. Such theoretical exercises rarely provide the true picture of the challenges we face in the Pacific.

We would make particular reference to the IMO Initial Strategy on GHG reductions from Shipping, an agreement that the Cook Islands was proud to have been at the forefront of developing. A fundamental requirement within that strategy is the requirement to assess the impact on states such as SIDS like the Cook Islands before further developing or adopting short term measures. Clearly, if the impacts are seen to be disproportionate, remedial action would need to be considered and put in place, or exemptions given before such measures eg speed limits are introduced. President, this is not negotiable. It is set in stone and without this requirement included in the initial strategy, the historic consensus would not have been reached.

That does not mean that more does not need to be done to reduce global shipping emissions, more has to be done and IMO is the only organisation with the mandate and competence to do this!

President, Global problems need global solutions. Global solutions, however, cannot be reached without due consideration of the impact on SIDS like ours. Rest assured the Cook Islands will as a nation in a region vulnerable to the ravages of climate change always engage positively in the development of further IMO measures both in the medium and long term ... but for now President our eye is on 2023!

“Let no one be left behind”

I thank you for availing the Cook Islands an opportunity to address the 31st Assembly.”


1: Cook Islands Permanent Representative to the IMO Captain Ian Finley addressing the 31st Assembly of the IMO in London on 3 December 2019

2: IMO Secretary General Kitack Lim opening the 31st Assembly of the IMO

3: Captain Finley and SG Lim


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