Climate Action

Small Island States plead to not be consigned to history

A recent UN report warns that the Small Island States (SIS) may not be with us for much longer, warning that a sea level rise will make the islands totally inhabitable.

  • 01 December 2010
  • Simione Talanoa

A recent UN report warns that the Small Island States (SIS) may not be with us for much longer, warning that a sea level rise will make the islands totally inhabitable. In response the SIS are calling for a 'Climate Change Insurance Fund' to protect their people from become extinct.

Diplomats from the 43 Caribbean, African and Pacific nation members of the Alliance of small island states (AOSIS), at the UN climate talks in Cancún, said that they faced "the end of history" if rich countries did not raise their ambition to hold temperatures well below 2C.

According to the UN report researched by Oxford University's Centre for the Environment, 260,000 people would be displaced from the islands, one million would be at risk from flooding, and damages could cost between USD$4billion and USD$6billionn a year, with infrastructure costs running to tens of billions in many countries. Billions of dollars would also be lost from the affluent tourism industry.

The report discusses the impacts of climate change to the SIS and warns that sea levels could rise by up to 6.5ft (2m) by the end of the 21st century. If the increasing rate of global warming continues there will also be a higher risk of hurricanes and sea surges.

The SIS is calling for tougher measures at the UN Framework Conference for Climate Change, and is urging other nations not to leave them behind.

Antonio Lima, Vice Chairman and ambassador of the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) spoke during the climate change talks in Cancun saying, whole nations will be lost as sea levels rise. He said he fears most for the lives of people in Kiribati, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, the Marshall Islands, and the Maldives, whose islands are presently only a few metres above sea level.

He said: "We are going to be the first human species endangered in the 21st century. We are going to be in danger of going extinct. We do not want to be the forgotten of the 21st century. We do not want to be sacrificed. We want to survive and to survive we need solidarity from those who can do something about the weather."

As well as cuts in emissions to stop global warming, the small island states are calling for a Global Climate Change Insurance Fund which would help nations cope with the effects of climate change.

Poor nations at risk of sea level rise would pay an annual premium, but a large section of the money would come from climate change aid provided by rich nations. The fund would similar to standard insurance funds and would be invested so that in case of an emergency, billions of dollars would be readily available.

The prospect fund would pay out according to damage, as it is very hard to decipher whether weather related disasters are due to climate change. For it to be impartial the fund would only be available to nations who do not have the means to support themselves if disaster struck. As well as this, at the beginning they would have to undergo reasonable prevention measures, such as building coastal defences, so that the money would only be used in extreme situations.

The Climate Change Insurance Fund would also be able to help whole nations create a new homeland if rising sea levels meant that their islands would be inhabitable. In certain cases it would also be used to repair airports, roads and hotels.

AOSIS say that the Climate Change Insurance Fund should be part of the new global deal on climate change, which puts into doubt the haste at which the fund would be set up.

The 40 plus nations included in AOSIS say that not only would the fund help them in extreme cases, but due to the clause, that states prevention measures must be made first, it will motivate them to put into place prevention measures, as well as encourage them to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and help the fight against climate change.

Author: Charity Knight | Climate Action

Image: Sarah_Ackerman | flickr