Most side events (events other than the main party negotiation)  at COP15 have been in the form of presenting research results, describing current mechanisms and suggesting what directions to take in climate change mitigation going forward. They all rely heavily on fact and reasoning to make the case. Kiribati event, in contrast, appeals to ethics and emotions.

Some background information on Kiribati:

The Republic is Kiribati is an island nation in the central tropical Pacific Ocean. It has a total area is only 720 km2 and supports a population of 98,000 people. The country is on average only 2 meters above sea level, making it one of countries the most vulnerable to climate change and sea level rise. With the current pace of sea level rise, the country will face serious water supply, food security and land loss problems, possibly making it inhabitable within one generation. So the Kiribati may not be there anymore in the coming decades. In the climate change negotiation arena, Kiribati is part of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

At the event, the stage was decorated with traditional fabrics and souvenir. Each attendee was given a necklace made of sea shells. Several Kiribatin women in traditional dress greeted the attendees. The event started with a video introducing the country and the danger of climate change it is facing. There were beautiful images of tropical landscapes, native traditional ceremonies and other cultural activities. After that, the panelists greeted the guest in their language, saying Mauri for ‘wishing you health’. Half way through the event, there was a live performance of the traditional dance by a Kiribatian woman in beautiful and colorful traditional dress. During the Q&A session, the screen showed an image of a native child looking at the audience asking “What will be my future?”.

This was by far the most touching event I have attended at the conference. It is so different from other events in that it presented the human side of climate change. It appeals to ethics. With all the negotiation and practical bargaining happening at COP15, I wonder how far an appeal to ethics can go.

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