Climate Reparations: Opportunities and Obstacles for the Commonwealth’s Small Island States

Jump to Guests
Dr Tara Shine
Honourable Kausea Natano
Honourable Mohamed Nasheed
Dr Payam Akhavan
Dr James Fletcher
Sabra Noordeen
Date & Time
2:00pm, 15 February 2022 - 3:30pm, 15 February 2022
About the event

Climate finance, particularly compensation for ‘loss and damage’, is a critical issue for the Commonwealth’s small and vulnerable states.

These states have felt the catastrophic effects of global heating, including the increasing intensity and frequency of hurricanes, cyclones, and flooding. Climate finance offers small and vulnerable states protection and mitigation from these threats—if they can access it.

With limited resources of their own, small and vulnerable states are naturally dependent on larger ones for the financial support they need. The great irony, and tragedy, is that they are dependent on the very nations who have benefited from decades of high energy use and carbon pollution.

Despite the urgency of the situation, compensation for loss and damage remains a contentious issue in multilateral forums and funding has not been forthcoming. All the while the citizens of small and vulnerable states remain at risk.

As carbon emissions continue at alarming rates, the movement for holding polluters financially accountable for the damage they have caused is growing. But without significant political or economic leverage, small and vulnerable states have struggled to make climate reparations a reality. So, what options do small and vulnerable states have?

This Critical Conversation will bring together a panel of climate negotiators, climate justice activists, small island decision-makers, climate policy thought leaders and legal experts to answer this question and more:

  • Can multilateralism deliver the necessary compensation owed to the people bearing the brunt of the climate crisis?  
  • What approaches must leaders and activists now utilise to build their power? 
  • Can initiatives such as debt cancellation or debt-for-climate swaps yield just results? 
  • Could the recent establishment of a Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law, with the power to make legal claims against ‘polluters’, be the answer?

Read: The Agreement for the Establishment of The Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law

This event has now taken place. You can watch the recording here:


Dr Tara Shine Moderator
Honourable Kausea Natano Speaker
Honourable Mohamed Nasheed Speaker
Dr Payam Akhavan Panellist
Dr James Fletcher Panellist
Sabra Noordeen Panellist
Dr Tara Shine

Dr Shine is co-founder and Director of Change by Degrees, an award-winning business that advises organisations on sustainability strategy and reporting, employee engagement and sustainability communications.  

Before setting up Change by Degrees in 2018, she spent 20 years as an international climate change negotiator and adviser to governments and world leaders on environment and development policy.  She was Special Adviser to the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice and Climate Adviser to The Elders. 

Tara is Chair of the Board of Trustees of the International Institute of Environment and Development (IIED) and a member of faculty and lead facilitator for the visibility stream of Homeward Bound, a global leadership programme for women in science.  

In 2020 Tara was appointed as co-facilitator of the Structured Expert Dialogue of the Second Periodic Review under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  

Dr Shine is author of ‘How to Save Your Planet One Object At A Time’ published in April 2020 by Simon and Schuster. She is a science communicator and TV presenter and presented the 2020 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures. Most recently she won Network Ireland STEM Businesswoman of the Year Award 2021.

Photo credit: Cathal Noonan

Honourable Kausea Natano

The Honourable Kausea Natano is a Tuvaluan politician who is serving as the 13th Prime Minister of Tuvalu, in office since September 2019.

Hon. Natano first became a Member of Parliament in 2002 and was appointed Chair of the Public Accounts Committee. He was re-elected for a second term in Parliament in 2007 and was also appointed as the Minister for Public Utilities and Industries. In 2010, Hon. Natano was re-elected for a third term where he was appointed as the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Communication and Transport, and Minister for Public Utilities and Industries. Before entering politics, Hon. Natano was Director of Customs of Tuvalu, and also served as Assistant Secretary for the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and Chairman of the Board of Directors for the National Bank of Tuvalu.

Hon. Natano is the outgoing Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, a regional political grouping that aims to enhance cooperation between countries and territories of the Pacific Ocean through discussing common issues and problems facing the 18 independent and self-governing member states.

Honourable Mohamed Nasheed

Often dubbed the ‘Mandela of the Maldives’ Mohamed Nasheed was the Maldives’ first democratically elected president. He is a figurehead for human rights and democracy in Islamic countries, and an international icon for action against climate change.

President Nasheed is currently Speaker of the People’s Majis (parliament), a position he was elected to in May 2019.

A former human rights activist, Nasheed led a campaign of non-violent, civil disobedience that pressured Maumoon Gayoom to relax authoritarian controls and allow political pluralism. In historic democratic polls in 2008, Nasheed was elected president, sweeping away 30 years of one-man rule. Arrested, imprisoned and tortured in the Maldives on numerous occasions for his political beliefs, Nasheed was named an Amnesty International ‘Prisoner of Conscience,’ and is widely credited for playing an instrumental part in bringing freedom and democracy to the Maldives.

During his time in office and thereafter, Nasheed has played a prominent global role advocating for action to curb greenhouse gas emissions that threaten his nation. In 2009, to highlight the Maldives’ vulnerability to rising sea levels, Nasheed famously held a meeting of his cabinet underwater. Nasheed also implemented policies to turn the Maldives into the world’s first carbon neutral country.

On 7 February 2012, democratic progress in the Maldives suffered a major setback when Nasheed was forced to resign the presidency under the threat of violence.

In March 2015, the Maldives Criminal Court sentenced Nasheed to 13 years in jail for “terrorism” in a blatantly politicised trial strongly condemned by numerous governments and civil society organisations. Nasheed spent a year in jail, before being permitted to travel to the UK for medical treatment, where he was promptly granted political asylum. The regime banned Nasheed from contesting the 2018 presidential elections, despite him winning the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) primaries. His childhood friend and leader of the MDP parliamentary group, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, contested in his stead, and won a landslide victory. President Solih was sworn into office on 17 November 2018.

President Nasheed won the 2009 Anna Lindh Prize, in recognition of his work promoting human rights, democracy and environmental protection. In September 2009, Time Magazine declared President Nasheed a ‘Hero of the Environment’. In April 2010, the United Nations presented Nasheed with its ‘Champions of the Earth’ environment award. In November 2014, President Nasheed was presented the Mission Blue Award, which Dr. Sylvia Earle honoured for his distinguished work on climate change advocacy. In November 2016, President Nasheed was appointed to the Board of Directors of Freedom Now, a nonpartisan nonprofit organization, founded in 2001, with charitable status in the U.S. and the UK. President Nasheed was bestowed the prestigious ‘2017 Courage Award’ in Februray 2017 by a coalition of 25 international human rights groups at the 9th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.

Dr Payam Akhavan

Dr Payam Akhavan is Professor of International Law and Senior Fellow at Massey College, University of Toronto and Member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague. He is currently the legal counsel for the newly formed Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change and International Law. 

Payam was the first Legal Advisor to the Prosecutor’s Office of the International Criminal Tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda at The Hague (1994-2000) and is currently Special Advisor to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. He has served as legal counsel in leading cases before the International Court of Justice, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Supreme Courts of Canada and the United States. 

Payam received his Doctorate from Harvard Law School and has published extensively in leading academic journals.  He was previously Full Professor at McGill University Faculty of Law (2005-20) and Fernand Braudel Senior Fellow at the European University Institute, with other appointments at Yale Law School, Oxford University, Université Paris (Nanterre), and Sciences Po.  He is recipient of the 2021 Human Rights Award of the Law Society of Ontario.

Dr James Fletcher

Dr James Fletcher is the former Minister for Public Service, Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology (2011 – 2016) in Saint Lucia. 

Prior to his tenure as Minister, Dr Fletcher served as the Director of Social and Sustainable Development at the Secretariat of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, the Cabinet Secretary in the Government of Saint Lucia, and as the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. 

For years, he served as one of the chief high level negotiators for the Caribbean and the Association of Small Island States in international climate change negotiations. He led the Caribbean’s delegation to COP15 and played a pivotal role in the adoption of the historic Paris Agreement on Climate Change. He provided the leadership, together with PANOS Caribbean, that resulted in the development of the Caribbean’s ‘1.5 to Stay Alive’ civil society campaign in 2015 and has also chaired the CARICOM Task Force on Sustainable Development and the Regional Coordinating Committee on Climate Change. 

Currently, Dr Fletcher manages his own consulting company, SOLORICON, which provides consulting services in areas including agriculture and rural development, sustainable energy, and information and communications technology. He is the author of the book Governing in a Small Caribbean Island State and co-author of the recently published book Negotiating the Paris Agreement: The Insider Stories.

In 2019, Dr Fletcher was selected by the UK Chevening Scholarship Program as one of 35 Global Changemakers. In 2020, he launched The Caribbean Climate Justice Project, an initiative to increase civil society awareness of the impacts of climate change and ensure appropriate responses at the national, regional, and international levels to issues of climate justice. 

Dr. Fletcher holds a B.Sc. (Hons.) in Biochemistry from the University of Ottawa (1986) and a Ph.D. in Plant Physiology from the University of Cambridge (1990).

Sabra Noordeen

Appointed under the Climate Emergency Act, H.E Sabra Ibrahim Noordeen is the first Special Envoy for Climate Change in the Maldives. Ms. Noordeen graduated from the University of London, United Kingdom, with a Master of Science in State, Society, and Development. She previously served as the Secretary, Foreign relations at the President’s Office.

Virtual Event
Copy link
Commonwealth Foundation logo

We support people's participation in democracy and development by providing grants, platforms, and expertise.

Related events
No upcoming events in this series.