Press release: Deadly Hurricanes Raise Stakes at First ‘Island COP’

Bonn, Germany—On the eve of the latest round of UN climate talks, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) released the following statement:

 COP 23, the first “Island COP,” presided over by the government of Fiji, opens in the wake of one of the worst hurricane seasons on record, which devastated several AOSIS members, including Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Cuba, killing scores and causing at least $40 billion in damage. Other islands in the region were also impacted and much of Puerto Rico, an AOSIS observer, is still without power. Other islands, though spared a direct hit, suffered extensive damage to infrastructure, agriculture and tourism.

“Hurricanes Irma and Maria brought the true impact of climate change on small islands into sharp focus. If the scenes of utter devastation out of the Caribbean are not evidence enough of the reality of loss and damage, I don’t know what is,” said Thoriq Ibrahim, Energy and Environment Minister for the Maldives and Chair of AOSIS. “Fortunately, we have seen a groundswell of support for the Paris Agreement since 2015 from the grassroots up, as well as major economies announcing very ambitious initiatives. We expect this momentum to continue.”

We can do our part here at COP 23 by delivering on the following:

– In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Maria, wildfires in the US, unprecedented flooding in South Asia, our UNFCCC process needs to give greater prominence to the issue of loss and damage.  We are looking for a 5-year work programme that delivers for vulnerable Parties,  long-term budget support for the work of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage, and a standing agenda item on loss and damage, so that, among other key issues, the most recent science can provide a footing for informed decision making within our international negotiating process.

– Accelerate the flow of finance to small island developing states who are already suffering acutely from climate change.  This requires expanding access to grants and concessionary loans for SIDS, systemically simplifying access to finance including for loss and damage, creating international instruments to incentivize private finance flows towards building resilience in SIDs and ensuring timely disbursement of funds.

– Renewed political commitment to peak global carbon emissions by 2020 and to put the world on a pathway to keep warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

– A comprehensive Terms of Reference for the Talanao Dialogue in 2018.

– Significantly advance our work on the Paris Agreement Work Programme.

The “Island COP” is may well be our last best chance to ensure a healthy and prosperous future for small islands and the world.