Netherlands, Tonga, face common problem in global warming says Dutch ambassador

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Four centuries after Dutch explorers became the first Europeans to discover Tonga, the Netherlands’ Ambassador to New Zealand, Robert Zaagman, has warned that both countries face common challenges from global warming.

Much of the Netherlands has been reclaimed from the sea. Half of it less than a metre above sea level and one eighth is below sea level. Like other Pacific islands, Tonga is threatened by rising seas and there is already evidence that coastal areas are being eroded.

The European Union, of which the Netherlands is a member, has built sea defences along Talafoʻou, Makaunga and Manuka in eastern Tongatapu.

Mr Zaagman said this week that both countries were vulnerable to climate change.

“Climate change requires urgent response and close co-operation and in the Netherlands it is one of our top priorities,” he said.

“The sea has always been a defining factor in the history and culture of our nation. Today, it is important as ever although not always in the positive sense. Both the Kingdom of Tonga and the Netherlands are vulnerable to the consequences of climate change including sea level rising.”

Mr Zaagman made the comments at the opening of an exhibition of paintings and digital materials commemorating the 400th anniversary of the visit to Tonga by the Dutch explorers Jacob Le Maire and Willem Cornelisz Schouten.

They were circumnavigating the globe in 1616 when they sighted Tafahi island and traded with the local people, swapping iron and strings of beads for vegetables.

An encounter with the people of Niuatoputapu was less peaceful. An islander was shot and injured when canoes went out to meet their ship, the Eendracht.

The Tongan islands they visited were the first to be added to European maps.

One of the paintings on display  shows the Eendracht surrounded by Tongan canoes off Tafahi.

In 1643 another Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, visited the Tongan Islands of ‘Ata, ‘Eua and the largest island of Tongatapu. His ships, the Heemskerck and the Zeehaen also traded with the local communities.

Tonga has issued a set of commemorative stamps to mark the 1616 anniversary.

The exhibition was held in Queen Sālote College Hall and will remain in Tonga for permanent display.

HRH Crown Prince Tupouto’a unveiled the display.

Tonga and the Netherlands

Relations between the Netherlands and Tonga are limited. and the kingdom is not regarded as a priority. The kingdom is not a Dutch foreign policy priority.

The Dutch ambassador in Wellington is responsible for Dutch relations with Tonga. Our honorary consul in the capital Nuku’Alofa provides consular services and deals with economic issues and trade.

The Tongan royal family has good relations with the Dutch Royal Family.

The main points

  • Four centuries after Dutch explorers became the first Europeans to discover Tonga, the Netherlands’ Ambassador to New Zealand, Robert Zaagman, has warned that both countries face common challenges from global warming.
  • Mr Zaagman said this week that both countries were vulnerable to climate change.
  • “Climate change requires urgent response and close co-operation and in the Netherlands it is one of our top priorities,” he said.
  • Mr Zaagman made the comments while handing over an exhibition of paintings and digital materials commemorating the visit to Tonga by the Dutch explorers Jacob Le Maire and Willem Cornelisz Schouten.

For more information

The womb of strong and peaceful monarchy brings together Tongans and Dutch to nurture the hopes of a vibrant democracy

First European contact

Relations Netherlands-Tonga

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