Reversing Climate Change,
Saving Planet Earth
– Asia Should Lead
Remarks by J. Ramos-Horta *

Singapore, 7 – 9 April 2017


*Nobel Peace Prize Laureate (1996), President, Prime Minister, Senior Minister For Foreign Affairs, Defence Minister (2001-2012); Chair, High Level Independent Panel On United Nations Peace Operations (2014-2015); Co-Chair, Independent Commission on Multilateralism, International Peace Institute (2014-2016); Special Rep of the UN Secretary-General, Under-Secretary-General, Head of UN Integrated Peacebuilding Mission in Guinea-Bissau (2013-2914

Ladies and gentlemen,

I commend the hosts and promoters of ADEX17, specially John Thet, for this magnificent program, Asia’s premier forum highlighting the beauty and richness of Planet Earth, in particular the mesmerizing beauty of our marine life, as well as its fragility and the devastating impact of uncontrolled, irrational and irresponsible human activity that is destroying it. But this forum bringing together hundreds of people, men and women, of all ages and all walks of like, from around the globe, may also point us to ways of rescuing our common Habitat.

Timor-Leste is of the newest independent and sovereign country; having just celebrated its 15th anniversary, it is a country in its infancy with all the attendant fragilities and challenges. However we have made great strides from conflict to peace, from instability to stability, from violence to healing and reconciliation, and from extreme poverty to steady, sustainable development in the last 10 years.

We rank higher in the UN Human Development Index than some of our neighbors and much better than almost every Sub-Saharan African country excepting South Africa and Cape Verde.

Being neglected for centuries and underdeveloped has had its positive, unintended benefits in that our marine environment has not been as badly damaged by industrial waste and overfishing.

However, like many small islands and costal states around the world illegal fishing is common place and does severe environmental and financial damage to our people and our economy. In any given night, the TIMOR Sea lights up by hundreds of fishing boats fishing illegally and with absolute impunity in our EEZ and Territorial waters. We simply do not have the means to effectively end these criminal activities in our waters.

But our waters remain immensely rich. Allow me to share with you verbatim a recent Press release:

A biodiversity survey in the waters of Ataúro Island, situated 36 kilometers (22 miles) north of Timor-Leste’s capital Dili, conducted by Conservation International (CI) in July has revealed that the island hosts the highest average fish diversity globally.

The 10 study sites averaged 253 reef fish species per site, including one site where 315 species – the third highest globally – were recorded. This reflects a near 20% increase in average species diversity from CI’s biodiversity survey in 2012, which yielded an average of nearly 212 species per site.

Conservation International Timor-Leste’s country director Trudiann Dale explained,

“With each study, we discover something new within Timor-Leste’s magnificent biodiversity, making it even more critical to protect marine life here. The results prove beyond doubt that the reefs of Ataúro Island are extremely diverse and valuable to the people of Timor-Leste.”

As Ataúro Island becomes an increasingly popular tourism destination, known locally for its rich marine life, there has been few formal studies confirming its biodiversity. Conducted as part of CI’s Rapid Assessment Program (RAP), the study aims to expand scientific knowledge of the island’s marine ecosystems to help inform its protection and value, especially from ecotourism, for local livelihoods.

Over the course of a week, through around 120 man-hours underwater, a total of 642 reef fish species were recorded by the RAP team – comprised of marine biologist and Vice President for CI’s Asia-Pacific Field Division’s marine programs Dr. Mark Erdmann, CI Timor-Leste’s marine program manager Anselmo Amaral, marine biologist Gerry Allen and coral reef taxonomist Emre Turak.

Timor-Leste’s average site species count has now surpassed Raja Ampat in the Bird’s Head Seascape, Indonesia, which hosts the most marine biodiversity in the world, and is on par with much larger islands such as Chuuk and Pohnpei in Micronesia, and Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean.

The RAP team also assessed the health of Ataúro’s surrounding waters and coral reefs, and found that the reefs were healthy overall, with the exception of a few areas.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Timor-Leste was an active participant in the Paris Summit; our leading environmental law expert Prof. Adao Soares Barbosa, elected Spokesperson for the LDCs successfully negotiated and bridged the differences between LDCs and SDIS and the US and EU thus decisively contributing to the consensus achieved at COP21.

Allow me to share with you some facts that illustrate the leadership our young and still fragile country is playing globally on climate change:

Implementation of UNFCCC by Timor-Leste at International Level

1. Since 2009Timor-Leste has been negotiating Loss and Damage challenges on behalf of 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) at UNFCCC; and as the spokesperson for all UN climate change negotiations such as in Paris, Morocco, Warsaw etc.
2. Timor-Leste represented LDCs in the Adaptation Fund Board members from 2011 up to 2014. This nomination was approved by COP17 in Durban.
3. Prof. Adão Barbosa represents the LDCs in the Executive Committee for Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage, nominated and approved by the COP20, held in Lima, Peru, ending in 2018,
4. Timor-Leste (Adão Barbosa) was nominated by the Asia Pacific region to represent the Asia Pacific Region for the membership of the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG) under the UNFCCC. This nomination was done at COP 21 in Paris.

In Annex to this oral contribution for this forum, those interested will be able to see in more detail TL active engagement at national level and internationally in fulfilling our obligations.

Since the modestly successful COP21 in Paris in December 2015 more scientific data has emerged pointing to the extreme gravity of global warming and climate change. But at the same time the new Administration of the most powerful and one of the biggest CO2 global emitters is threatening to reverse the modest political gains made in Paris.

But not all is lost if Asia shows leadership. Asia is the common Home of half of the world’s population. China and India each have more people than the whole of the African Continent of One billion people.

And Asian leaders and civil society must stand up to the XXIst Century challenge. Four billion Asians extract more from Mother Earth than any other peoples of this Planet – the drinking water we consume, the water we use for cooking and washing; the water we use to irrigate the modest farms that provide us just enough for our basic subsistence.

But this is not all. Think of the pressures we exert on the land, the trees we fell for fire wood or to satisfy our greed; take the next step and calculate the amount of industrial waste that are either buried or dumped into rivers, lakes and oceans; look at the skies of a major Asian metropolis in any given night and you won’t see the stars above; everyday we breathe the air in our mega cities containing cancer causing poison; today the amount of CO2 emissions from industries from two developing countries, India and China, released into the atmosphere exceed those of Western industrial nations.

In UN gatherings, we hear leaders, experts and activists from the developing  South laying blame at the doors of Europeans and North Americans for the damage done to Earth in the course of the last 100 years of industrial development. It is undeniable that the richer countries of the Northern Hemisphere have extracted more from Mother Earth, enriched themselves many times over at the expense of the rest of the world, and in the process did irreparable damage to our Planet.

Timor-Leste is among the most vulnerable of all and with our fellow LDCs and SDIS bear the greatest impact from Climate Change; yet the level of our CO2 emission is 0,000000001 of the global CO2 emissions.

But we must also pause, acknowledge and reflect that even the Small Islands Developing States and the Least Developed Countries are not completely innocent. Some of our own governments because of lack of legislation and action, or lack of resources, or because of greed and corruption, do also contribute to the destruction of our fragile islands; and our own people, the common people, who are supposed to be more sensitive to nature as their very survival depend on the environment, they too contribute on a daily basis to the poisoning of our rivers, lakes and seas, the decimation of our forests and the impoverishment of our soil. Imported plastics and other non degradable material are dumped everywhere alongside the roads, littering towns, cities, villages, etc. We destroy our forests for fire wood not only for our own basic legitimate needs like preparing a family meal in the absence of an electric stove but to sell it on the road side and thus make easier money than tilling the land.

I have travelled across much of Asia, Africa and Latin America and what I have seen with my own eyes has not been pretty. It is heartbreaking, to see the amount of waste along roadsides, floating islands of garbage in the oceans, tones of garbage that clog and poison lakes and rivers; it is disheartening to see how families and communities don’t even border to clean up around their humble living quarters; the community leader doesn’t bother to educate and mobilize the community to clean up, to plant trees, etc.
We must do our part where we live; we don’t have to wait for someone else to make decisions in this regard. We can do simple things like planting trees in our communities, schools, villages; we can help cleaning up the rivers and lakes, collect all the litter around us.

I know it is not politically correct to blame ourselves, leaders and people, but Ladies and Gentlemen, if we in the developing world do not honestly accept and shoulder our share of responsibilities, we may continue to make grandiose and eloquent statements criticizing the West but our islands and countries will continue to dry up and sink.

Asian leaders should charter a comprehensive, integrated, creative, multi-pronged strategy to save our glaciers, rivers, lakes, forests, seas, and marine life.

Singapore is a living laboratory of what can be done through ingenuity and creativity, sound policies, wise, honest and committed leadership, to save our planet. I cannot disguise my admiration for the leaders and peoples of this City State, an inspiring model for the rest of the world. Just imagine how SEA would look like if every ASEAN country were to replicate Singapore’s policies and practice on water management and environment preservation.

Southeast Asia has a unique chance to contribute to the global efforts on combatting climate change by increasing investments in restoration of our lost forests, cleaning up and restocking our depleted lakes, rivers and seas; Southeast Asia must invest more in clean energy and clear our roads of the hundreds of millions of obsolete vehicles; replace them with electric and solar powered vehicles.

Many rightly blame China for its stratospheric levels of pollution derived from its dizzying industrialization; but Chinese leaders and civil society are acutely aware of the unbearable, unsustainable and deadly levels of the environment degradation resulting from unregulated industrialization; and they are undertaking unprecedented steps to combat Climate Change; much has been done and is being done in China to discard old industries and replace them with newer and cleaner ones; China has planted tens of millions of trees to slow down the encroaching desert.

The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is a development strategy and framework proposed by President Xi Jinping. It focuses on connectivity and cooperation primarily between the People’s Republic of China and Eurasia.

Through the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the new Silk Road concept of bringing sustainable development to Asia as a whole, to eliminate extreme poverty and illiteracy, to provide basic health care to all, clean water water and sanitation, eliminate malaria and other preventable illnesses associated with poverty and lack of education China is living up to its historic responsibility.

India, another Asia’s giant on the march, cannot do less. The two giants that have extracted the most from Mother Earth, benefited the most and done the most damage, must put aside their historic rivalry and shoulder the burden of reversing the damage done to our Planet.

Last but not least, civil society with its power to mobilize and channel the vision and energy of hundreds of millions of youth in Asia can and must be the catalyst for realizing the goal of an Asia that is free of extreme poverty, illiteracy and inequality, an Asia that is cleaner and healthier and thus contributing to save our Planet.

While we expect Governments to live up to their commitments made at COP21 in Paris, civil society should not relent on pressuring the signatory States to deliver on the pledges on financing for compensation, adaptation and mitigation.

J. Ramos-Horta



Republica Democrática de TIMOR-LESTE
Ministerio do Comercio, Indústria e Meio Ambiente

Briefing Note

I. Introduction
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate  Change (UNFCCC) was adopted at the world conference on sustainable development held in Brazil in 1992 and was open for signature. As of now it has been ratified by more than 1992 countries.

The objectives of this convention are:
a.  stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system,
b. to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change,
c. to ensure that food production is not threatened and
d. to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.

Timor-Leste ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2006 and came into force in 2007. Additionally, Timor-Leste also ratified the Convention’s Kyoto Protocol in 2008 and came into force in 2009.

II. Implementation of the UNFCCC in Timor-Leste

a. Implementation of UNFCCC at National Level, including Programs and Projects
After the ratification of the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol, some programs and activities have been implemented at national level. These programs and activities are:
1. Establishment of National Focal Point for the UNFCCC in 2006
Adão Soares Barbosa from UNTL was nominated by the GoTL to be the National Focal Point for the UNFCCC up to now
2. Establishment of National Directorate for International Environmental Affairs and Climate Change under the Secretariat of State for Environment in 2007, and just recently changed its name becoming National Directorate for Climate Change under the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Environment
3. TL Formulated its proposal for National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA) in 2008 and the proposal was submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat and the Global Environmental Facility’s (GEF) Secretariat in 2008. The objective of the NAPA is to identify and prioritize the most urgent and immediate adaptation needs from all Least Developed Courtiers (LDCs) under the UNFCCC’s requirement
4. In 2009, the NAPA proposal was approved by the GEF by allocating 200,000 USD for Timor-Leste in order to formulate its NAPA document. The NAPA formulation was started in 2009 and was involving all stakeholders from related ministries and NGOs.
5. Under the NAPA preparation document, a Climate Change Thematic Working Group was established in order to facilitate all consultation processes. Memberships of the working group were from all related ministries and NGOs. The Thematic Working Group was led by the Secretariat of State for Environment under the Ministry of Economy and Development.
6. Under the NAPA document, 9 national climate change adaptation were identified such as 1) food Security and Agriculture, 2) water resource management, 3) human health, 4) natural disasters, 5) forest and coastal ecosystem, 6) livestock production, 7) infrastructure, 8) infrastructure for oil and gas, and 9) capacity building.  In 2011, the NAPA document was signed by the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste and was submitted to the UNFCCC Secretariat and the GEF Secretariat.

7. In 2010, Timor-Leste formulated proposal on Small Scale Rural Infrastructure for the NAPA implementation (the 7th priority).  This proposal was approved by the GEF in 2011 with financial support of
4, 600,000 USD for TL. This project is now implemented in  Liquiça, Ermera and Baucau. The project is implemented by UNDP and executed by the Ministry of State Administration. This project is ongoing.
8. In 2012, Timor-Leste gained 5,250,000 USD from the GEF for Natural Disaster Management called Dili-Ainaro Corridor. The project is being implemented by  UNDP and executed by the Ministry of Social Solidarity. This project is for NAPA implementation of 4th priority. This project is on going.
9. In 2013, Timor-Leste gained 4,000,000 USD from the European Union for seed storage. The project was implemented by the IFAT and executed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. This project was implemented in all 13 municipalities and completed in 2016. This project was for NAPA’s 1sth priority and was completed in 2014/2015
10. In 2012/2013 Timor-Leste got financial support from the European Union via Pacific Island countries about 300,000 USD for Water supply in Liquiça, Manatuto and Bucau. This project is for NAPA priority number 2. The project was completed in 2016.
11. In 2013, the Australian Government provided 1,700,000 for supporting rural climate change adaptation. This project was undertaken by OXFAM, CRS, Care and others under the Consortium and was implemented Oecuse, Viqueque, Baucau, Covalima etc. The project was completed in 2015.
12. In 2012-2013, the EU allocated 4,000,000 USD for rural livelihoods as well as forestry and the project is implemented by GIZ and Comoes Institution in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture, the project is ongoing
13. In 2014-2015, TL got financial support of 7,000,000 USD from the GEF for shoreline areas of mangrove rehabilitation which the project is undertaken by the UNDP and executed by the MAF. This project is ongoing
14. In 2013, Timor-Leste gained 4,500,000 USD from the GEF for climate change adaptation for Manatuto-Natarbora Corridor that is being implemented by ADB in cooperation with Ministry of Public Works,Transport and Communication. This project is ongoing
15. In 2015, TL got financial support from EU about 1,000,000 for water supply in Vemasse and Watershed management in Raumoco. This project is ongoing
16. Timor-Leste also established National Designated Authoty for Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) in 2009 for facilitating CDM projects
17. Timor-Leste established its National Focal Point for Green Climate Fund, and a readiness  proposal  has been approved by the GCF Board and is going the be implemented soon
18. The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Environment through National Directorate for Climate Change undertakes public awareness raising program on climate change in all municipalities
19. The MCIA in cooperation with the National University of Timor Lorosa’e (UNTL) has established a Center for Climate Change and Biodiversity (CCCB) with aim to undertake climate related research in order to provide data to the Government of TL to take decisions
20. A climate change vulnerability assessment has been undertaken in Hera and Pantaikelapa by the CCCB with aim to provide data to the GoTL
21. Timor-Leste  formulated its National Communication to the UNFCCC  in 2012 and was submitted to the UNFCCC in 2014. This project was supported by the GEF with fund amount of 405,000 USD.
22. MCIA is now undertaking Second National Communication to the UNFCCC which will consult all related ministries and agencies. The GEF has provided financial support for this project with funding amount of 1,000,000 USD
23. Timor-Leste submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) to the UNFCCC Secretariat on 1 March 2017.  This document has been required by the Paris Agreement which needs to be transferred into the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of Timor-Leste the Paris Agreement. The formulation of the INDC was financially supported by the Second National Communication’s Fund
24. Timor-Leste has ratified the Paris Agreement and the instrument of ratification will be sent soonest to the UN Secretary-General.
25. For Climate Change mitigation, TL has created a National Park called Nino Konis Santana National Park in Lautem Municipality.
26. In terms of mitigation, the government of Timor-Leste is promoting the use of cooking stoves which is led by the MCIA and implemented by Mercy Corps.
27. MCIA is also undertaking mangroves rehabilitation in Ulmera as a pilot project
28. National Directorate of Renewable Energy is promoting the use of solar panels, biogas and mini hydro power in some places.

b. Regulations
After the ratification of UNFCCC, some regulations have been formulated and implemented as follows:
1. Environmental Policy was formulated and was approved by the Council of Ministers in 2012, and it is now implemented by the MCIA and others. This policy covers some climate change issues, including adaptation and mitigation
2. Environmental Basic Law was formulated in 2011 and approved by the Council of Ministers in 2012. This law covers climate change adaptation and mitigation issues
3. Environmental License Law was also formulated by the previous Government and was approved in 2011 which covers some climate change issues
4. An Operational law of Clean development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol was formulated and approved by the Council of Ministers in 2010
5. An Environmental Strategic Plan was also formulated by the previous Government
6. The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Environment has drafted a National Climate Change Policy and is going the be finalized very soon
7. Some sectoral laws and regulations related to climate change issues have been formulated and approved and are now being implemented

c. Implementation of UNFCCC by Timor-Leste at International Level
1. Timor-Leste has been negotiating Loss and Damage issues on behalf of 48 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) since 2009 at UNFCCC climate change negotiation, including acting as a spokesperson for all UN climate change negotiations such as in Paris, Morocco, Warsaw etc.
2. Timor-Leste represented  LDCs in the Adaptation Fund Board members from 2011 up to 2014. This nomination was approved by COP17 in Durban, south Africa
3. Timor-Leste represents the LDCs for the membership of Executive Committee for Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage which was nominated and approved by the COP20, held in Lima, Peru, and will be terminated in 2018, Adão Barbosa has been assigned for this position
4. Timor-Leste (Adão Barbosa) was nominated by the Asia Pacific region to represent the Asia Pacific Region for the membership of the Least Developed Countries Expert Group (LEG) under the UNFCCC. This nomination was done at COP 21 in Paris.

III. Benefits of the Membership of Timor-Leste to the UNFCCC
1. Gaining financial support for adaptation and mitigation of climate change from  the UNFCCC mechnism that is managed by the GEF and GCF
2. Gaining capacity building under the UNFCCC mechanism
3. Timor-Leste gained opportunity to be elected by the LDCs to negotiate climate change issues on behalf of the LDCs. Timor-Leste will also get technology transfer for both adaptation and mitigation
5. Ratification of UNFCCC enables TL to formulate its environmental related laws and policies
6. Under the implementation of UNFCCC, TL can undertake cleaner energy and conserve its natural resources in a more comprehensive way
7. TL has opportunity to share experience and expertise to deal with climate change adaptation and mitigation from different countries.