Enele Sopoaga

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Enele Sopoaga

Enele Sopoaga 2015.jpg
12th Prime Minister of Tuvalu
Assumed office
1 August 2013
Acting: 1 August 2013 – 5 August 2013
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor-General Iakoba Italeli
Deputy Vete Sakaio
Maatia Toafa
Preceded by Willy Telavi
Member of Parliament
for Nukufetau
Assumed office
16 September 2010
Servingwith Lotoala Metia then Elisala Pita
Personal details
Born (1956-02-10) 10 February 1956 (age 63)
Nukufetau, Tuvalu
Political party Independent
Spouse(s)Salilo Enele
Alma mater University of Oxford
University of Sussex

Enele Sosene Sopoaga PC (born 10 February 1956) is a Tuvaluan diplomat and politician who has been Prime Minister of Tuvalu since 2013.

Privy Council of the United Kingdom Formal body of advisers to the sovereign in the United Kingdom

Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council of the United Kingdom or just the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom. Its membership mainly comprises senior politicians who are current or former members of either the House of Commons or the House of Lords.

Tuvalu country in Oceania

Tuvalu, formerly known as the Ellice Islands, is a Polynesian island country located in the Pacific Ocean, situated in Oceania, about midway between Hawaii and Australia. It lies east-northeast of the Santa Cruz Islands, southeast of Nauru, south of Kiribati, west of Tokelau, northwest of Samoa and Wallis and Futuna, and north of Fiji. It comprises three reef islands and six true atolls spread out between the latitude of 5° to 10° south and longitude of 176° to 180°, west of the International Date Line. Tuvalu has a population of 10,640. The total land area of the islands of Tuvalu is 26 square kilometres (10 sq mi).

Diplomat person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with another state or international organization

A diplomat is a person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with one or more other states or international organizations. The main functions of diplomats are: representation and protection of the interests and nationals of the sending state; initiation and facilitation of strategic agreements; treaties and conventions; promotion of information; trade and commerce; technology; and friendly relations. Seasoned diplomats of international repute are used in international organizations as well as multinational companies for their experience in management and negotiating skills. Diplomats are members of foreign services and diplomatic corps of various nations of the world.


Sopoaga was elected to Parliament in the 2010 general election. He served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Environment and Labour in Prime Minister Maatia Toafa's short-lived government from September to December 2010. Following an unsuccessful bid for the premiership in December 2010 (with Toafa's support), he became leader of the Opposition to prime minister Willy Telavi's government. [1] He became caretaker prime minister on 1 August 2013 following Telavi's removal by the Governor General, in the context of a political crisis. [2] A day later, on 2 August 2013, the opposition successfully voted out Telavi's government in a no confidence vote. [3] Following this, a ballot was held to elect the new prime minister of Tuvalu and Sopoaga won with 8 votes to 4. He was sworn in on 5 August 2013, and created his ministry the same day. [4]

Parliament of Tuvalu

The Parliament of Tuvalu, or Palamene o Tuvalu is the unicameral national legislature of Tuvalu.

Maatia Toafa OBE is a Tuvaluan politician, representing Nanumea who served two non-consecutive terms as Prime Minister of Tuvalu. He first served as Prime Minister from 2004 to 2006, from the resignation of his predecessor, Saufatu Sopoanga, until the defeat of his Cabinet in the 2006 general election. He was re-elected to parliament in the 2010 general election; and regained the premiership on 29 September 2010; however he lost the support of the parliament following a motion of confidence on 21 December of the same year. On 5 August 2013 Toafa became the Minister of Finance and Economic Development in the government of Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga. He was appointed as Deputy Prime Minister following the Tuvaluan general election, 2015.

Cabinet of Tuvalu

The Cabinet of Tuvalu is the executive branch of the government of Tuvalu.

Personal life and education

Sopoaga received a Certificate in Diplomatic Studies from Oxford University in 1990, and a master's degree from the University of Sussex in 1994. [5] [6] Sopoaga and his wife, Salilo Enele, have three children. [7]

University of Sussex public research university in East Sussex, England

The University of Sussex is a public research university in Falmer, Sussex, England. Its campus is located in the South Downs National Park and is a short distance away from Central Brighton. The university received its Royal Charter in August 1961, the first of the plate glass university generation, and was a founding member of the 1994 Group of research-intensive universities.

He is the younger brother of Saufatu Sopoaga, who was prime minister from 2002 to 2004.

Career in administration and diplomacy

From 1980 until 1986, Sopoaga served as an Education Administrator within the Ministry of Social Services. He became the Assistant Secretary of the Ministry of Social Services in 1986. [6] He was the Assistant Secretary and European Union National Authorizing Officer, Department of Foreign Affairs (three years), and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Economic Planning (two years), both between 1986 and 1991. [6] Sopoaga was the acting officer within the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Economic Planning from 1991 until 1992. He then served as the Permanent Secretary (the highest civil service position) and European Union National Authorizing Officer within the Tuvaluan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Economic Planning from 1992 to 1995. [6] Additionally, Sopoaga served as Tuvalu's High Commissioner to Fiji. He also simultaneously served as the Tuvaluan High Commissioner to both Papua New Guinea and Samoa. [6] From 1995 to 1996, he was the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Sports and Human Resource Development. [6]

He subsequently served as his country's Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2001 (when the Permanent Mission of Tuvalu was established) to 2010. [8] [9] He also served as the Vice-Chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) from January 2002. [10] He has been described as "Tuvalu's climate change negotiator", [11] tasked with raising the profile of the dangers posed by climate change in Tuvalu and other small island nations.

Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) is an intergovernmental organization of low-lying coastal and small island countries. Established in 1990, the main purpose of the alliance is to consolidate the voices of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to address global warming. AOSIS has been very active from its inception, putting forward the first draft text in the Kyoto Protocol negotiations as early as 1994. At the 2013 Warsaw climate change conference, AOSIS also pushed for the establishment of an international mechanism on loss and damages stressed by the wreckage of Supertyphoon Haiyan. As the existence of many AOSIS states are put at risk by climate change AOSIS has threatened lawsuits. The results of a recent review of the literature show that potential liability for climate change-related losses for the Alliance of Small Island States is over $570 trillion.

Climate change in Tuvalu

Global warming is dangerous in Tuvalu since the average height of the islands is less than 2 metres (6.6 ft) above sea level, with the highest point of Niulakita being about 4.6 metres (15 ft) above sea level. Tuvalu islands have increased in size between 1971 and 2014, during a period of global warming. Over 4 decades, there had been a net increase in land area in Tuvalu of 73.5 ha (2.9%), although the changes are not uniform, with 74% increasing and 27% decreasing in size. The sea level at the Funafuti tide gauge has risen at 3.9 mm per year, which is approximately twice the global average.

Small Island Developing States

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are a group of small island countries that tend to share similar sustainable development challenges, including small but growing populations, limited resources, remoteness, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks, excessive dependence on international trade, and fragile environments. Their growth and development is also held back by high communication, energy and transportation costs, irregular international transport volumes, disproportionately expensive public administration and infrastructure due to their small size, and little to no opportunity to create economies of scale.

Political career

In 2010, he decided to go into politics, and stood for Parliament in the general election on 16 September 2010. Sopoaga, who was elected to parliament for the Nukufetau constituency was expected to pose a strong challenge to Ielemia for the office of prime minister during the formation of a new government. In the event, however, neither Ielemia nor Sopoaga stood for the premiership, and Maatia Toafa was elected prime minister. Toafa formed a cabinet composed largely of first time MPs who had given him their support, and appointed Sopoaga as deputy prime minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Environment and Labour. [12] [13]

Leader of the Opposition

Maatia Toafa's government was brought down on 21 December 2010 by a motion of no confidence in Parliament, by eight votes to seven. The motion was reportedly due to MPs' concerns about the budget, and in particular possible restrictions on the government's funding of Tuvaluans' medical costs abroad. [14] With a new prime minister due to be chosen on 24 December, Toafa announced that he would not be standing for the job, but that he hoped Sopoaga would be chosen by parliament in his place. [13] Sopoaga stood for the premiership, but lost to Willy Telavi by seven votes to eight. [15]

Sopoaga thus became leader of the Opposition. He continued to call for international initiatives to tackle climate change, including "adaptation techniques", a transfer of affordable sustainable technologies to vulnerable developing nations. This would enable sustainable living, he said, and address the issue of Tuvalu's dependence on donor countries. He told Radio Australia that Tuvalu was now suffering from "long, serious" periods of drought, affecting crops. (See: 2011 Tuvalu drought .) He has also stated that, to respond to the overcrowding of Funafuti, Tuvaluans on the outer islands should be given the economic means to live on their home island rather than move to the capital. One other issue he raised during a talk on Radio Australia was the need for independent media in Tuvalu, presenting news in an accurate rather than "rosy", 'pro-government' manner. He stated that Tuvaluans' "right to correct information is curtailed by censorship". [1]

The latter concern led him to set up, with two other people, the Tala o Matagi newspaper company (meaning "Story of the Wind") in June 2011. Emphasising the people's right to "reliable information" on politics and other issues, for the betterment of themselves and of the nation, he explained that the newspaper would begin as a short, bilingual weekly newsletter in Tuvaluan and English, issued in one or two hundred copies. [16]

In early 2012, he criticised the Telavi government's decision to establish formal diplomatic relations with "countries that have unsettled political issues of concern to the international community" – namely, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Armenia (the latter in the context of its territorial dispute with Azerbaijan). Sopoaga suggested that the establishing of diplomatic relations with specific foreign countries should be decided by Parliament, not solely by the Cabinet. [17]

Prime Minister

Sopoaga became prime minister in a caretaker capacity following the dismissal of incumbent Willy Telavi by Governor-General Iakoba Italeli on 1 August 2013. [2] In a secret ballot held during an extra session of parliament three days later, Sopoaga was elect as Prime Minister of Tuvalu by 8 votes to 4. He was sworn in by Italeli on 5 August 2013, [18] and created his ministry the same day. [18] A day after being sworn into office, Sopoaga said he was 'confident' of retaining office in the next general election, and he would ensure the country had a strong voice in the fight against climate change. [19] He promoted a number of high-profile Tuvaluan politicians back to cabinet, including Vete Sakaio who was appointed the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Public Utilities; and Maatia Toafa, who was appointed Finance and Economic Development' Maatia Toafa was previously the prime minister of Tuvalu from 2004 to 2006 and again in 2010. [18]

Following the 2015 general election, Enele Sopoaga was sworn in as prime minister on 10 April. [20] [21] [22] Enele Sopoaga said his administration will focus on working to make Tuvalu less vulnerable to climate change and global economic forces. [22]

Commitment to address the effects of climate change on Tuvalu

2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15)

Enele Sopoaga served as the main spokesman for the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, and was one of the chief negotiators for global action on climate change, with Tuvalu receiving attention for its strong advocacy on the issue. He proposed amending the draft climate treaty so as to require all countries to limit the rise in global air temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This proposal was subsequently rejected. [23]

2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP16)

Sopoaga, who had described the outcome of the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen as unsatisfactory, [24] led Tuvalu's delegation at the 2010 Conference in Cancun in December, and said of it that he had been "[s]ort of encouraged by the turn around of things. It could have been worse, but I think goodwill prevailed [...] despite a lot of issues still sticking out". [25]

2013 Majuro Declaration

As prime minister, Enele Sopoaga has worked on international effects to address the problems resulting from global warming in Tuvalu. In September 2013 Sopoaga said that relocating Tuvaluans to avoid the impact of sea level rise “should never be an option because it is self defeating in itself. For Tuvalu I think we really need to mobilise public opinion in the Pacific as well as in the [rest of] world to really talk to their lawmakers to please have some sort of moral obligation and things like that to do the right thing.” [26]

Sopoaga made a commitment under the Majuro Declaration, which was signed on 5 September 2013, to implement power generation of 100% renewable energy (between 2013 and 2020). This commitment is proposed to be implemented using Solar PV (95% of demand) and biodiesel (5% of demand). The feasibility of wind power generation will be considered. [27]

Establishing Tuvalu's National Advisory Council on Climate Change

On 16 January 2014 prime minister Enele Sopoaga established the National Advisory Council on Climate Change, which functions are “to identify actions or strategies: to achieve energy efficiencies; to increase the use of renewable energy; to encourage the private sector and NGOs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; to ensure a whole of government response to adaptation and climate change related disaster risk reduction; and to encourage the private sector and NGOs to develop locally appropriate technologies for adaptation and climate change mitigation (reductions in [greenhouse gas]).” [28]

2014 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change at Lima

At the 20th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in December 2014 at Lima, Peru, Sopoaga said "Climate change is the single greatest challenge facing my country. It is threatening the livelihood, security and wellbeing of all Tuvaluans." [29]

2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21)

Prime minister Enele Sopoaga said at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21) that the goal for COP21 should be a global temperature rise of below 1.5 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels, which is the position of the Alliance of Small Island States. [30] [31] Sopoaga was appointed the lead spokesperson for the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) at COP21. [32] [33] Prime minister Sopoaga said in his speech to the meeting of heads of state and government:

His speech concluded with the plea:

Enele Sopoaga described the important outcomes of COP21 as including the stand-alone provision for assistance to small island states and some of the least developed countries for loss and damage resulting from climate change and the ambition of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century. [35]

Published works

See also

Political offices
Preceded by
Willy Telavi
Prime Minister of Tuvalu

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