Environment, Global, Global Geopolitics, Headlines

ENVIRONMENT: Small Island States Step Up to Combat Global Warming

Jennifer Sieg

UNITED NATIONS, Apr 21 2001 (IPS) - The 37-member Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) has called for strong and credible action to tackle the international threat of climate change.

“We are least responsible for, but most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and so we find ourselves at the forefront in the fight against global warming,” says AOSIS chairman Ambassador Tuiloma Neroni Slade of Samoa.

The Alliance says it is “profoundly concerned and disappointed” by the recent US decision to reject the 1997 Kyoto Protocol which requires the global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to prevent dangerous human interference with the earth’s climate system.

“While all regions are likely to suffer, the scientific evidence has singled out small island communities as being the most vulnerable to climate change,” it notes.

Ministers and delegates from half a dozen small island states – St. Lucia, Grenada, the Maldives, Jamaica, Kiribati and the Cook Islands – announced their commitments to renewable energy as a means to control greenhouse emissions that contribute to global warming, at a ceremony Friday commemorating Earth Day 2001. The United Nations celebrates Earth Day on Sunday Apr. 22.

The event was part of the ninth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, taking place at the United Nations from Apr. 16 to 27. Energy and the atmosphere are key themes of the talks.

“Clean energy is central to the global efforts to save the environment and also is a tool for economic and social development,” said Tom Roper, a representative of the Climate Institute.

The Institute, along with Winrock International, Counterpart International, the Organisation of American States, and the Forum for Energy and Development (FED) co-hosted the event. With the exception of FED, which is based in Denmark, the rest of the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are international in character with branches worldwide.

The consortium launched the Global Sustainable Energy Islands Initiative (GSEII) last November at the Climate Change Conference in The Hague, and is assisting island nations in their energy transformation efforts.

The consortium says that small island states are struggling with expensive fossil import costs and an inability to supply electricity in rural areas.

However, these states are especially suited to utilise combinations of modern renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency due to the availability of renewable energy resources and current energy consumption patterns, according to the consortium.

Bishnu Tulsie, a senior official from the Ministry of Planning in St. Lucia, outlined his country’s ambitious plan, which he says should result in a 35 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2010.

The government will encourage the exploitation of new and renewable energy technologies, including wind farms and solar heating units.

St. Lucia also advocates the aggressive pursuit of efficiency and conservation measures to reduce demand by 15 percent over the next decade. Suggested demand-side control measures include promotion of public transportation and a move toward alternative-fuel vehicles.

Tulsie said, his government will encourage private sector development by providing tax incentives for the use of renewable energy and full waivers of customs charges on imported sustainable energy technology. “The issue for us is not one of economics, it is of survival,” he added.

Countries at or just above sea level are among the most threatened by the effects of climate change. In many cases, much of their land area rarely exceeds three to four metres above sea level.

If current projections are correct, the estimated 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Centigrade rise in temperature over the next century could create sea levels and storm surges that could send significant portions of these nations to the bottom of the ocean.

In addition to rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions, damage to fishing stocks, salinisation of agricultural land, and contamination of water supplies are all potentially devastating consequences of global warming.

A recent report issued by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimated that worldwide damage resulting from climate change could cost over 300 billion dollars annually, and some low-lying countries could see losses exceeding ten percent of their Gross Domestic Product by 2050.

The Earth Day announcement comes on the heels of criticism of the United States’ rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, in which industrialised nations agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Earlier this week, the Group of 77, the 133-member coalition of developing nations – as well as some of the United States’ closest allies – expressed concern that the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases had chosen to abandon the Kyoto agreement. The United States accounts for approximately 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

AOSIS said it “believes the United States has a solemn responsibility, indeed a moral duty at the very least, to lead the world community in the struggle against global warming”.

A number of delegates at the Earth Day event reiterated similar sentiments. “The Kyoto Protocol is central to global efforts to address human- induced climate change, but the lack of support from the United States, to whom we look for principled leadership in many respects, makes those steps very difficult for us,” warned Tangata Vavia, Minister of Energy in the Cook Islands.

In the meantime, nations represented at the ceremony said they will continue to pursue the goals outlined in the Kyoto Protocol.

“We will do whatever we can, because this is the issue of our very existence,” Tulsie said.

Republish | | Print |

Related Tags