As the climate change summit begins to conclude in Paris, tiny island nations around the globe, and especially from the Pacific Islands, have definitely made their voices heard.
And rightly so…
Let’s face it- while most countries think of climate change in terms of economic costs, nations in the Pacific Islands (as well as remote island groups in the Indian Ocean and the Caribbean) picture a world map without them on it. UN Environment Program chief, Achim Steiner, said that they are “literally negotiating over their own survival.”
Jake Schmidt of the Natural Resource Defense Council that is based in New York said, “These countries are not even as big as most American cities. Yet, Western countries want them as allies because they speak with such a moral clarity about this challenge. And, they signal to the larger developing country bloc that this is an issue that has to be dealt with.”
Pacific ministers have not given up and are digging in on their red line positions. In fact, it has been reported that Tuvalu’s Prime Minister, Enele Sopoaga, sought an urgent meeting with United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, on the eve of the conclusion of negotiations for a new global agreement on climate change. One of the main issues that Pacific leaders have been fighting tooth and nail for the past few weeks is the inclusion of the below 1.5 C (2.7 degrees F) degrees target. Naturally, this brings up other questions such as, “how can such a target be implemented,?” or “why only 1.5 degree?” Nevertheless, they all agree it is a step in the right direction.
Another issue that Pacific leaders at the Paris Agreement want to see implemented is a “loss and damage” mechanism that will ensure support when they are hit by climate impacts such as extreme weather events made worse by climate change.
For example, climate change poses an existential threat to the Marshall Islands, which protrude only 6 feet (2 meters) above sea level in most places. When the alignment of the Earth, moon and sun combine to produce the most extreme tidal effects, it causes a phenomenon known as, King Tides. The storm surges from these tides are getting worse, causing floods that contaminate fresh water, kill crops, and erode land.
Thus, the “loss and damage” issue will show that it is not solely about adapting to climate change, but coping with unavoidable impacts as well.
Interestingly, in Kiribati, a Pacific nation made up of 33 coral atolls, President, Anote Tong, is already making contingency plans for when and if the country becomes unlivable. Kiribati has bought 20 square kilometers of land in Fiji in case the population has to be moved…
Imagine the cultural affect this could have on the people of Kiribati and Fiji!