By Agnieszka Flak, Reuters November 28, 2011
Small island states may disappear under rising seas if an international agreement to tackle climate change is delayed for another decade, an official said on Monday.
The European Union is calling for a global deal to be reached by 2015 and implemented by 2020, but the 43-member Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) said that would be too late to reverse rising sea levels that threaten to submerge the vulnerable states.
"We are not going to support this delay that many of the major countries are proposing because it's inconsistent with science," Selwin Hart, the group's chief negotiator on finance said on the sidelines of U.N. climate talks in Durban, South Africa.
Countries agreed last year in Cancun, Mexico, that deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions were needed to hold temperature rises below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times.
"We have to take action immediately ... if we are going to achieve the below 2 degrees course," Hart said.
A legally binding pact to reduce emissions looks unlikely to be agreed in Durban and may take several years due to deep divisions between rich and poor states.
But Hart said countries should consider the small states in the Caribbean, the Pacific, Africa and elsewhere that already suffer severe droughts, rising sea levels and stronger hurricanes as a result of climate change.
"At the heart of any agreement should be the principle that no country is expendable. We cannot afford and should not ... it's morally and ethically indefensible to sign an agreement that will result in the demise of a single nation state," he said.
"We are not prepared to sign that kind of agreement. The consequences for some of the islands will be extinction."
He said his group hopes the meeting in Durban, which runs until December 9, would bring the parties together and see the major emitters listen to the plea of the most vulnerable nations.
"The current pledges will lead us to global warming of 3-4 degrees Celsius which is devastating for the islands and Africa and virtually for every vulnerable nation of the world," he said.
AOSIS is arguing for an agreement that would target emissions peaking by 2015-17 at the latest.
"We need to have an outcome that we can take back to our countries and say: This safeguards your livelihoods, this provides you with a fighting chance."