Listen to article

27 September - Top officials from small island developing States (SIDS) issued calls from the General Assembly podium today for enhanced measures to be taken on combating climate change, especially in speeding up the availability of funds for poorer nations to adapt to global warming.

At last December's climate change conference in Copenhagen, industrialized countries pledged $30 billion of fast-track funding for developing countries through 2012, with that figure set to climb to $100 billion annually by 2020.

But the “much-publicized 'fast-track' funding,” Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, told the Assembly's high-level debate today, “has become a 'best kept secret.'”

He stressed that “information on how much of the pledges have been honoured, disbursed and to whom, has been scarce. When available, the information is vague and seems bereft of coordination.”

With the form, content and completion of a new global treaty on climate change remaining uncertain, Mr. Malielegaoi stressed that making the promised funds available is a “moral imperative.”

The next conference of parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is set to be held in November in Cancun, Mexico.

“We cannot afford to leave Cancun empty-handed,” the Samoan official stressed. “Concrete results must be achieved not only to give our people confidence that substantive responses are being reached to protect against climate change and at the same time strengthen our belief that our United Nations can deliver a legally-binding agreement.”

Also urging the provision of the promised fast-track funding “without delay” was Fijian Prime Minister, Commodore Josaia V. Bainimarama.

“The threat of climate change, particularly sea level rise, continues to hang over us all,” he told the Assembly today.

“While some of us are more vulnerable than others, we must work in concert as a responsible international family to mitigate the adverse effects of this global phenomenon.

Also calling for resources to be made available for developing nations as quickly as possible, Foreign Minister Jean-Paul Adam of the Seychelles voiced concern that a bulk of the funding for adaptation is being channelled through traditional outlets.

“This means that most SIDS will miss out on funds because of our middle income status,” he pointed out.

Addressing climate change, Mr. Adam, stressed, requires mechanisms on funding that do not rely on “business as usual.”

Vanuatu's Prime Minister Edward Natapei told world leaders gathered at UN Headquarters that “the degree of urgency for real commitments to emissions reduction must be commensurate with the science and associated impacts of climate change on the most vulnerable communities.”

Action must be taken, not with concerns over short-term impacts on industrial growth or political tenure, but with the longer-term view of building sustainable economies and societies around the world, he argued.

The necessity of reaching a climate change agreement “cannot be over-emphasized,” said Peter Shanel Agovaka, Foreign Minister of the Solomon Islands.

He said that his country supports the call issued by SIDS to reduce temperature rise below 1.5 degrees Celsius and to lower greenhouse gas concentration to well below 350 parts per billion.

The need for global cooperation to solve the issue of climate change was among the themes of the address by Vice-President Mohamed Waheed of the Maldives.

His country, he said, “believes that it is time to let go of the mistrust and blame that has plagued the UNFCCC process.”

Dr. Waheed welcomed India's recent initiative to voluntarily curb its emissions and its commitment to promote green energy “without waiting for others to follow suit.”

Climate change, he stressed, threatens the country's very existence, and the Maldives has invested in water and sanitation projects, as well as coastal defences. It is also creating voluntary resettlement programmes to move people to more viable islands within the country.

“It is unquestionable that our actions alone cannot save us. The global community must act,” the Vice- President underlined, in a sentiment echoed by Winston Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda.

The Caribbean nation, Mr. Spencer said, has pledged to curb its “already minuscule” greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, within the range specified by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“However, much remains to be done and we are painfully aware that we cannot do it alone,” he said.

He urged all countries – both developed and developing – to announce “real, meaningful emission reductions targets, so that we can move this seemingly endless debate forward and reach a comprehensive, binding agreement in the very near future.”