Is­land states seek UN help on cli­mate change


More than a dozen small is­land na­tions made an ur­gent ap­peal to the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Thurs­day for help in com­bat­ing cli­mate change, which they said poses a threat to their very ex­is­tence.

The coun­cil — more typ­i­cally a fo­rum for heated de­bates on the plight of refugees in Syria or ef­forts to stem the war in Ukraine — heard pleas from min­is­ters and am­bas­sadors of diminu­tive na­tions like Fiji, Samoa and Caribbean coun­tries like St. Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines.

The group — dubbed the Small Is­land De­vel­op­ing States (SIDS) — rep­re­sent the far­thest-flung reaches of Africa, Asia and the Caribbean.

But it had one sin­gu­lar plea — fi­nan­cial and tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance to help them avoid be­com­ing washed away in the ris­ing tides and pow­er­ful storms caused by global warm­ing.

The pres­i­dent of the Re­pub­lic of Kiri­bati, Anote Tong, said the plight of smaller is­lands for too long has been at the bot­tom of the list of pri­or­i­ties of the United Na­tions and other global or­ga­ni­za­tions.

He ex­pressed hope that Thurs­day’s con­certed ap­peal by the SIDS na­tions would help change that.

“Can we as lead­ers re­turn to­day to our peo­ple and be con­fi­dent enough to say ... that no mat­ter how high the sea rises, no mat­ter how se­vere the storms get, there are cred­i­ble tech­ni­cal so­lu­tions to raise your is­lands and your homes and the nec­es­sary re­sources are avail­able to en­sure that all will be in place be­fore it is too late?” Tong asked the coun­cil.

Dire Sit­u­a­tion

The is­land na­tions raised a raft of other se­cu­rity re­lated is­sues, in­clud­ing piracy on the high seas, but fo­cused largely on dan­gers posed by global warm­ing.

Tong’s tiny na­tion of about 100,000 peo­ple has been acutely af­fected by cli­mate change.

Kiri­bati con­sists of about 30 atolls, most of which sit just a few me­ters above sea level.

The low-ly­ing na­tion suf­fers from a range of en­vi­ron­men­tal prob­lems linked to cli­mate change, from storm surges to flood­ing to wa­ter con­tam­i­na­tion.

The sit­u­a­tion is so dire that the gov­ern­ment is mulling the idea of re­lo­cat­ing the en­tire pop­u­la­tion, amid fears that Kiri­bati one day in the not too dis­tant fu­ture may find it­self com­pletely un­der­wa­ter.

Oth­ers at the meet­ing pointed to the ex­am­ple of Van­u­atu, which was largely flat­tened in March by Cy­clone Pam — the worst nat­u­ral dis­as­ter ever to hit the South Pa­cific Ocean na­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to a United Na­tions World Risk Re­port pub­lished last year, Van­u­atu, still re­cov­er­ing from the dev­as­tat­ing storm of just four months ago, is the coun­try at great­est risk of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing nat­u­ral dis­as­ters due to cli­mate change — in­clud­ing se­vere cy­clones and ex­tremes of drought and flood.

The SIDS na­tions said they have made ap­peals in the past — mostly in vain — for global pow­ers to ad­dress the unique and acute im­pact they fact from cli­mate change.

The dif­fer­ence now, they said, is that New Zealand — which has long been sym­pa­thetic to the plight of smaller is­land na­tions — cur­rently wields the gavel in the ro­tat­ing pres­i­dency of the 15-mem­ber Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

“New Zealand’s use of its ten­ure as pres­i­dent of the UNSC to high­light SIDS is of par­tic­u­lar im­por­tance given the coun­cil’s his­tor­i­cal in­dif­fer­ence or an­tipa­thy to Small Is­land States and our peace and se­cu­rity chal­lenges,” said Camillo Gon­salves, for­eign min­is­ter of Saint Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines.

Un­til now, Gon­salves said “small is­land states, our is­sues and per­spec­tives, have been, by and large, ex­cluded from se­ri­ous and sus­tained con­sid­er­a­tion by the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.”

The United Na­tions has given 52 na­tions or ter­ri­to­ries — en­com­pass­ing a pop­u­la­tion of some 50 mil­lion peo­ple — the des­ig­na­tion of small is­land de­vel­op­ing states. Of those, 37 are U.N. mem­bers.

U.N. Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Kimoon seemed re­cep­tive to the mes­sage from the small is­land na­tions.

He said their plight needs to be on the agenda at 46-na­tion cli­mate change talks to be held in Paris in De­cem­ber.

“We need a mean­ing­ful and uni­ver­sal and global cli­mate agree­ment in Paris in De­cem­ber,” Ban told the gath­er­ing.

“The is­sues fac­ing SIDS are global chal­lenges. They are our col­lec­tive re­spon­si­bil­ity,” he said.

“But Small Is­land De­vel­op­ing States do not have the re­sources to com­bat such threats by them­selves,” the U.N. leader said.

“Only through global part­ner­ship can we se­cure their sus­tain­able and peace­ful fu­ture.”

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