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SMALL PACIFIC ISLANDS SAY SURVIVAL DEPENDS ON BALI OUTCOME

by Shailendra Singh

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on Bali global warming summit

(IPS) -- With the effects of climate change lapping at their shores, representatives of the small island nations to the United Nations climate change conference underway in Bali are hoping that the industrialized countries will learn from the new Australian government's decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

Political analysts in the South Pacific believe that one of the reasons John Howard's Liberal Party was thrashed at the recent Australian general elections was its failure to judge the changing mood of its people on climate change.

Australia's new decision to ratify the Kyoto Protocol has buoyed hopes in the South Pacific of other industrialized nations making further commitments to curb emissions and providing adequate funding to deal with climate change.

Representatives from 14 Pacific Island countries are in Bali pushing their case at the 13th conference of the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), signed by 180 countries, including 14 Pacific Island countries.

The fall of the John Howard government in Australia, and the subsequent policy change on the Kyoto Protocol coinciding with this all-important meeting, are seen as a boost by Pacific Island nations in their battle to get industrialized nations to commit to cuts in greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions.


Tuvalu's environment minister Tuvalu Teii recently said the new Australian Labor government's decision to ratify the treaty was good news for all small island states threatened by global warming. "Countries already being affected by global warming, like Tuvalu, now look to Australia as a model which other industrialized countries like the United States could follow," Teii was quoted as saying.

Howard's stubborn refusal to ratify the treaty had angered the Pacific Island states, which are among the most vulnerable to climate change and already suffering its effects. Tuvalu, with a population of 10,000, has been described as the ‘global face of climate change' and some scientists predict that it will submerge in 50 years.

According to the World Wide Fund (WWF)'s South Pacific program, each of the 14 Pacific Island countries will have its own particular issues to be raised in Bali. However, a 'new deal' on climate change by 2009 is particularly important for them.

"If dangerous climate change is to be avoided, it is a matter of urgency that countries reach agreement on a post 2012 deal on climate change," said a statement from WWF.

"Since this deal will take time to develop, it is fundamentally important that during the Bali meeting, countries agree to start negotiations as soon as possible. These negotiations must result in new and bigger commitments by all countries that emit large amounts of climate changing gases,' the WWF statement said.

Pacific Island countries will be lobbying hard for a provision for adequate funding for climate change adaptation to be part of any new agreement.

According to a recent report by Oxfam, adaptation costs in developing countries due to climate change are estimated to be in the order of $50 billion per year, and even more if carbon emissions were not cut worldwide. The Oxfam report says current pledges to the fund were for $163 million, far short of estimates.

Pacific Island countries feel particularly helpless. While they are the lowest emitters of greenhouse gas, they are amongst the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to their small size, coastal populations, high dependence on natural resources and low-lying nature.

The WWF says that with many Pacific Island countries preparing to adapt to these changes, it was important that any new international agreement provides adequate funding to cope with the changes. "Without a solid international agreement on climate change, the survival of the Pacific is at stake.'

That many of the world's low-lying islands may disappear, if urgent global action fails to address the problem of rising sea levels, is already on the agenda in Bali.

Grenada's Angus Friday, chief negotiator of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) said failure to reduce emissions and effective post-Kyoto agreements will result in catastrophic impacts including loss of whole islands.

The alliance represents 43 countries with populations smaller than 15 million people, ranging from Singapore to Tuvalu.

Friday told IPS that small islands needed to rethink adaptation strategies and design ways to reduce vulnerability to future environmental and economic shocks. This, he said, is in addition to traditional response strategies, such as better coastal barriers, disaster management training and economic diversification.

Friday said low-lying coastal nations are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, adding that with millions of lives that are now at risk, they are already seeing people who are being 'environmentally displaced' and being moved to other countries.

"We are now seeing people who are being 'environmentally displaced' in Maldives and in other small islands. Arrangements are being put in place where people are advized to move to other countries," Friday said.

Friday said rich countries should take the responsibility because "we believe that the developed countries benefited from rapid economic and industrial development, which basically created the problem. "



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Albion Monitor   December 11, 2007   (http://www.albionmonitor.com)

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