Obama: “I’m an island boy”

In a nod to the particular vulnerabilities faced by Small Island States, US President Barack Obama declared, “I am an island boy,” referring to his childhood years spent in Hawaii and Indonesia during a meeting with AOSIS  member states, St Lucia, Barbados, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, and Papua New Guinea.

President Obama met with the leaders on the second day of his visit to the United Nations climate negotiations in Paris.

“These nations are not the most populous nations, they don’t have big armies,” Obama added. “But they have a right to dignity and sense of place.”

Indeed, the dignity and preservation of the world’s vulnerable islands has taken on a leading role at the talks with the call for a 1.5 degree goal has taken center stage.

The temperature goal is widely viewed as a much safer limit, not just for islands but for a world increasingly experiencing extreme weather events with warming of less than 1 degree above pre-industrial levels today.

“As an island boy, [Obama] understands the unique challenges we face. The meeting was a chance to talk, at a very personal level, about how vulnerable we are to climate impacts and that we all need to work together to tackle what is now the gravest risk to humanity,” Marshall Islands President Christopher J. Loeak said after the meeting.

“Everything I know — and everyone I love — is in the hands of all of us gathered here in Paris,” he said. “This is the most important trip of my life. I need to be able to return to my people and say that we joined a Paris agreement that gives us hope and a pathway to survival.”

Islands are joined by over 100 other vulnerable nations around the world in calling for the safer temperature limit. It will undoubtedly take a enormous effort to achieve, but any higher puts the communities today and in the future at far to great a risk.