Press Conference by Alliance of Small Island States on Climate Change

10 July 2009

Press Conference by Alliance of Small Island States on Climate Change

10 July 2009
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

press conference by Alliance of Small Island States on climate change

In response to the announcement that leaders of the Major Economies Forum had agreed to hold rising temperatures to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) today reaffirmed its call for short- and medium-term targets that would limit increases to below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Addressing a Headquarters press conference on climate change, Dessima M. Williams, Permanent Representative of Grenada and Chairperson of AOSIS, welcomed the statements by the major economies, which signalled their growing and positive engagement with climate-change negotiations.  She also called on the major economies to cut greenhouse gas emissions by far more concrete and ambitious targets than those announced at the just-ended meetings of the G-8 and Major Economies Forum in L’Aquila, Italy.

Flanked by four other AOSIS representatives -- the Permanent Representatives of Barbados, Dominica, Seychelles, and the Solomon Islands -- Ms. Williams said:  “We welcome new outcomes which indicate greater momentum towards tackling the challenges of climate change.  However, for AOSIS, 2 degrees of temperature rise is still unacceptable, because it exceeds safe thresholds necessary for the protection and survival of small islands.”

She said that, for the smallest and most vulnerable islands, climate change was “already here, causing damage”, and that the world had an obligation to ensure “no island is left behind”.  It was a cruel irony that without adequate global commitments, the countries contributing least to global warming would be the most affected by its consequences.  Among other developing countries, small islands as well as coastal, low-lying and African countries already vulnerable to drought and desertification were highly at risk.

Given the decades-long time lags between the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and changes in average temperature, a mere temperature goal was insufficient, Ms. Williams said, explaining that targets must be specific, measurable, quantifiable and defined by reference to the 1990 baseline emissions agreed to under the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

She pointed out that the call by AOSIS echoed United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s statement on Thursday that the emission cuts proposed by the world’s largest economies were not deep enough.  A climate change agreement that ensured the survival of small island States would also protect the most vulnerable developing nations, including least developed countries.  Such a commitment to island nations would also safeguard the greater global community.  “We are the beacons of the world.  We are the frontline and we’re pleased to bring forward these rigorous proposals for consideration,” she added.

In response to a question, Ms. Williams said it was too early to say whether the Copenhagen Summit would accept the AOSIS proposal on limiting temperature increases to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, but the important thing was to understand that the proposal was accessible, considered and not arbitrary but scientifically based on studies indicating the probability of the risk being too high “if we go above that”.

To another question, Crispin Gregoire, Permanent Representative of Dominica, said it was heartening that the United States had become actively involved in the climate change process and debate.  “We hope that they will lead and play the leadership role that they need to play so that we can have an outcome that is acceptable to the island States,” he added.

Ms. Williams described AOSIS as a United Nations-based coalition of the world’s smallest island countries whose 42 members were among the most vulnerable to climate, noting that the Alliance was a major negotiating group in international talks under the Climate Change Convention and the Kyoto Protocol.  AOSIS leaders planned to meet in September, shortly before the 22 September Summit of world leaders called by the Secretary-General, in an effort to give a strong push to the negotiations and in hopes of securing agreement at the Copenhagen conference in December.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.