The second day of climate negotiations in Paris marked the role of island nations in forging a strong climate change agreement, with U.S. President Obama meeting the leaders of the low-lying countries.
Island nations aren’t anywhere close to the ranks of the big polluters and contributors to the rampant global warming. Nonetheless, these are the states that have the most to lose: being almost entirely flooded due to sea level rise.
Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, the Maldives, the Seychelles or Fiji are top list tourist destinations with their pristine landscapes, lush vegetation and perceived remoteness. Yet, as the global temperature rises, it triggers the loss of ice which triggers sea level rise. It might sound like a simplistic approach. Yet, it’s the center of the problem concerning small island nations.
In meeting with the leaders of island nations, U.S. President Obama declared that he was also an island boy, having spent many of his formative years in Indonesia and Hawaii. Together, the leaders looked to set the basis of an agreement that would secure the future of island nations, restrain global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and offer compensations to the small states that have participated little in creating this global problem.
The role of island nations in forging a strong climate change agreement might be best understood if we look at the stance of the Alliance of Small Island States counting 39 members. The goals are ambitious, yet, with little negotiation leverage, the small island nations are struggling to make their voice heard and bargain when the time comes.
The small island nations ask to limit global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius. The global consensus limit global warming at 2 degrees Celsius. It’s unclear if the 1.5 degrees Celsius could be achieved given the finite carbon budget the global community is working with today. How successful could this requirement be? It remains to be seen.
Nonetheless, another important provision sought by small island nations is the ‘loss and damage’ chapter. With no definitive definition, the loss and damage provision seeks reparations from the industrialized countries and the largest polluters for developing nations or the small island nations in case.
John Coequyt, who is the the director of international programs with the Sierra Club declared that small island nations represent the moral center of the climate change agreement process. The moral center is pinpointed by a clear black and white reality. If sea levels rise, these nations will lose their homes. It’s not a theoretical exercise, it’s the basis of climate refugees notions and a fact.
The chorus of small island nations has been joined by other nations in recent years. The loss and damage provision is on the lips of more than 100 states, all supporting the limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
In approaching this thorny issue, President Obama stated that for these nations, climate change represents the most immediate threat to their existence. On Tuesday he also pledged 30 million dollars to back risk insurance initiatives in Africa, the Pacific and Central America and help these nations rebuild as climate change is taking a toll on their existence.
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