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Tuvalu PM pessimistic on climate summit

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Tuvalu Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia said Saturday that he is not optimistic about signing a deal at this year's United Nations climate change summit that would require countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I cannot see a legally binding agreement being signed in Mexico at the end of this year. Things are moving a little bit too slow,” Ielemia told CNA in an interview on the sidelines of a regional climate change conference in Taipei.

Calls have emerged for such an agreement after talks in Copenhagen last year failed to produce a global climate treaty. The U.N. plans to hold this year's meeting in Cancun, Mexico in November.

“I would like the negotiators to ... fast-track the negotiations that will lead up to an acceptable agreement toward stakeholders,” he said, referring to industrialized countries.

Ielemia received attention at the Copenhagen summit when he warned that rising sea levels could submerge his homeland.

Ielemia also criticized the Copenhagen accord, saying it favored the United States over small island countries like Tuvalu. He said the accord reflected “what the United States wants.”

“By signing the Copenhagen accord, it's something almost like signing the death certificate for my people,” he said. “That is disaster. And I don't want to put my signature on that.”

His remarks came after a Washington Post report earlier this month suggested the U.S. had cut climate change assistance to Bolivia and Ecuador because they had boycotted the accord.

Ielemia blasted the U.S. for bullying small countries, especially those who will be most affected by climate change.

“We will maintain our position not to be part of the Copenhagen accord,” the prime minister said.

On Friday, Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou promised to help Tuvalu — one of 23 countries that recognize Taiwan diplomatically — grapple with the threat it faces from rising sea levels caused by global warming.

Ielemia told CNA Saturday that Taiwan is already helping Tuvalu mitigate the effect of climate change and that there are Taiwanese experts in Tuvalu who offer advice on environmental issues.

The prime minister also spoke of the need to put in place defensive measures, such as building sea walls around the coast to prevent the soil from being eroded.

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