Thursday, August 6, 2009

Too little, too late on climate, warn Pacific leaders

Brendan Nicholson and Hamish McDonald, Cairns

The Age, August 7, 2009

THE world was acting too slowly on global warming despite being just months from what is supposed to be a breakthrough international climate summit, regional leaders have warned.

After their two-day summit in Cairns, 15 Pacific Islands Forum leaders - including Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who chaired the meeting - called for action that would set the world on a path to limit the rise in global temperatures to 2 degrees or less, and to cut global emissions by at least 50 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050.

"With 122 days to go, the international community is not on track to achieve the outcome we need unless we see a renewed mandate across all participating nations," a statement from the leaders said.

But the call to reduce warming to 2 degrees or less was a compromise for most of the Pacific Island nations attending the meeting.

They are part of the Alliance of Small Island States, 39 nations in the Pacific, the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean that are likely to be among the first and worst affected by global warming.

The alliance says that unless the increase in temperature is kept below 1.5 degrees, the result will be disastrous for millions of people on those islands.

Ronald Jean Jumeau, the Seychelles representative at the UN, said the world's nations were doing far too little before December's climate summit in Copenhagen.

"While you're patting yourselves on the back for what you've achieved and while you're dealing with your internal divisions, we're here to tap you on the shoulder and say that what you are doing is not enough," Mr Jumeau said.

"We will lose our economic viability long before the waves take us over.

"We will lose our tourism industries with the collapse of the coral reefs, we will lose our fisheries and even if we still have some land to live on, we'll have nothing to live by."

Alliance leader Dessima Williams said the island nations faced destruction because of carbon emissions from industrialised nations that the islanders had no control over. "It is a matter of life as we know it or a life that is no life … It is happening to us already."

As well as the climate change plea, the 16 nations are to pool their experiences in alternative energy sources including solar, wind and wave power generation, with Australia putting $A25 million into the initiative.

The forum leaders also agreed to pursue common development strategies - based on private-sector growth, better state services and governance, and investment in infrastructure - and to get aid-donating countries and organisations to co-ordinate their programs with these strategies.

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