United Nations

At UN conference, small island countries seek action on climate change

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Source: United Nations

Small island States today called on industrialized countries to take a leadership role at the Bali Climate Change Conference and adopt targets to keep the world from warming past the point where catastrophic impacts would occur.

“No island should be left behind,” said Angus Friday of Grenada, the Chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States. These vulnerable countries, he said, are already feeling the impact of climate change in the form of more hurricanes, cyclone and typhoons.

Grenada, once deemed to be safe from hurricanes, has been devastated twice in the last seven years causing damage that amounted to 200 per cent of the country's gross domestic product, he said. Countries such as the Maldives were already spending considerable sums on adaptation efforts, which include building 14 “safe islands,” he added, calling for the Bali meeting to support the launch of an adaptation fund.

The conference ended its first week with negotiations in full swing on key issues. According to Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Climate Change Convention, Bali has to deliver on several issues of importance to developing countries, including adaptation, transfer of climate friendly technology, strengthened capacity building and progress on reducing emissions due to deforestation. In addition, he said, Bali needs to launch a process beyond 2012 when the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol expires.

The negotiations, Mr. de Boer said, seemed to be progressing well on a number of fronts. With Rajendra Pachauri formally presenting the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to the Conference yesterday, Mr. de Boer said he believes the message of the report is “loud and clear” and that is to “act now.”

Today was also 'Forest Day' in Bali, a day-long event by the Center for International Research on Forests to help inform the Climate Change Conference process on deforestation issues. Deforestation in developing countries causes roughly 20 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions.

The Bali Conference is presently discussing methods to design a comprehensive plan to reduce emissions from deforestation in developing countries that may include assessments in changes in forest cover, how to demonstrate reductions in deforestation emissions, and how to estimate the amount of emission reduction.

“These are very important first steps for fighting emissions from deforestation,” Mr. de Boer told the Forest Day meeting. “They will provide a good basis for further action.”

He pointed out that forests worldwide contain more than the amount of carbon in the entire atmosphere. “Cutting them down immediately releases carbon stored in the forest carbon pools as CO2 emissions.”

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