Small Islands Seek Breakthrough in Bonn

Bonn, Germany—At the opening of the latest round of United Nations climate change talks, Amjad Abdulla, chief negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), a group of 44 small island and low-lying coastal states that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, released the following statement on behalf of its members:

“As if further evidence was needed to illustrate the urgency of the climate crisis, NASA released findings last week that show the world may already be locked into one metre of sea level rise—putting many small islands and low-lying coastal states (not to mention major cities such as New York, Shanghai, and Mumbai) at risk for severe flooding, if not total inundation, by the end of the century.

“With just 10 negotiating days remaining before COP 21 opens in Paris, we haven’t a moment to waste in Bonn. We must work expeditiously to clarify key options in the negotiating text and ensure that by the end of the week an ambitious agreement is well within reach.

““First, it is critical that the Paris Agreement can deliver emissions pathways capable of stabilizing global temperatures at well below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. The Paris Agreement must do much more than create new processes; it must demand performance. There is much room for improvement in the draft text and we look forward to advancing this priority here in Bonn.

“Second, we know that tackling climate change and adapting to its impacts will require a minimum of $100 billion USD per year by 2020. Developed countries must deliver on this commitment and further commit to scale up the provision of support to realise the level of ambition required and maintain trust in the process.

“Third, as our recent experience with Cyclone Pam in the Pacific and Tropical Storm Erika in the Caribbean, as well as droughts, heat waves, and other climate impacts have shown, climate change is already here and it will only get worse in the years to come. “Indeed, some impacts that we face cannot be addressed through adaptation. To address slow onset impacts, such as sea level rise and ocean acidification, an international mechanism on Loss and Damage must be a central element of the Paris agreement. Loss and Damage, which results when climate impacts exceed the limits of our adaptation measures, as has been acknowledged in the Warsaw decision and laid out the “IPCC 5th Assessment Report. It should therefore be treated as a separate and distinct element of the agreement. A superficial agreement that seeks to placate and pretends to take meaningful action, while failing to address the needs of the particularly vulnerable, equates to having no agreement at all.

“We are staring at a once-in-a-generation opportunity to tackle climate change in Paris. But if we don’t work in earnest this week and in the days that follow, I’m afraid it could slip away to the peril of small islands.”