BANDOS ISLAND, Maldives, November 10, 2009 (ENS) – Leaders from countries most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change today concluded a two-day meeting at the idyllic Bandos Island Resort, but they were not there to enjoy the white beaches and clear turquoise Indian Ocean encircling the low-lying island. They worry that sea level rise brought on by global warming will drown this and all such islands the world over.
The leaders were taking part in the first meeting of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, convened in the hope that the meeting will raise the profile of adaptation and green development needs of the most vulnerable countries to the global donor community, catalyzing the financial resources they need.
Opening the Forum on Monday, Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed said, “We gather in this hall today, as some of the most climate vulnerable nations on Earth. We are vulnerable because climate change threatens to hit us first; and hit us hardest. And we are vulnerable because we have modest means with which to protect ourselves from the coming storm.”
“We are a diverse group of countries. But we share one common enemy. For us, climate change is no distant or abstract threat; but a clear and present danger to our survival,” Nasheed said.
“Climate change is melting the glaciers in Nepal. It is causing flooding in Bangladesh. It threatens to submerge the Maldives and Kiribati And in recent weeks, it has exacerbated drought in Tanzania, and typhoons in the Philippines,” he said. “We are the frontline states in the climate change battle.”
Nations invited to the Forum are: Bangladesh, Barbados, Costa Rica, East Timor, Ethiopia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Maldives, Nepal, Philippines, Rwanda, Vanuatu, and Vietnam. President Anote Tong of Kiribati attended; most nations sent their foreign or environment ministers.
Nations attending as observers include: China, Denmark, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In their final declaration, to be presented at the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, COP15, which opens December 7, the vulnerable nations state that they are ready “to show moral leadership on climate change through actions as well as words, by acting now to commence greening our economies as our contribution towards achieving carbon neutrality…”
The declaration calls on “all other countries to follow the moral leadership shown by the Republic of Maldives by voluntarily committing to achieving carbon-neutrality…”
Earlier this year, President Nasheed announced that the Maldives plans to become carbon neutral in 10 years.
On Monday, he asked the Vulnerable Countries Forum to join in this effort, saying, “I think a bloc of carbon-neutral, developing nations could change the outcome of Copenhagen.
“At the moment every country arrives at the negotiations seeking to keep their own emissions as high as possible and never to make commitments unless someone else does first,” Nasheed said.
“This is the logic of the madhouse, a recipe for collective suicide,” he told Forum delegates. “We don’t want a global suicide pact. And we will not sign a global suicide pact, in Copenhagen or anywhere.”
“I invite some of the most vulnerable nations in the world to join a global survival pact instead,” Nasheed said. “We are all in this as one. We stand or fall together. I hope you will join me in deciding to stand.”
Today the vulnerable countries declared they are willing to go carbon neutral, but they need financial help to accomplish this goal.
Their declaration states that because “significant adverse changes in the global climate are now inevitable and are already taking place,” the COP15 outcome document must include, “an ambitious agreement on adaptation finance which should prioritise the needs of the most vulnerable countries, especially in the near-term…”
The vulnerable countries are asking developed countries “to provide public money amounting to at least 1.5 percent of their gross domestic product, in addition to innovative sources of finance, annually by 2015 to assist developing countries make their transition to a climate resilient low-carbon economy.”
“This grant-based finance must be predictable, sustainable, transparent, new and additional – on top of developed country commitments to deliver 0.7 percent of their Gross National Income as Overseas Development Assistance,” the declaration states.
The vulnerable nations say they have good reason to worry.
They are, “Gravely concerned at reports of a downgrading of expectations for COP15” and they are “calling therefore for a redoubling of efforts – including through the attendance in Copenhagen, at Head of State- or Head of Government-level, of all States, and especially of major industrialized nations and all major emerging economies.”
The vulnerable nations declared that they are, “Alarmed at the pace of change to our Earth caused by human-induced climate change, including accelerating melting and loss of ice from Greenland, the Himalayas and Antarctica, acidification of the world’s oceans due to rising CO2 concentrations, increasingly intense tropical cyclones, more damaging and intense drought and floods, including Glacial Lakes Outburst Floods, in many regions and higher levels of sea-level rise than estimated just a few years ago, risks changing the face of the planet and threatening coastal cities, low lying areas, mountainous regions and vulnerable countries the world over…”
They are, “Conscious that while our nations lie at the climate front-line and will disproportionately feel the impacts of global warming, in the end climate change will threaten the sustainable development and, ultimately, the survival of all States and peoples – the fate of the most vulnerable will be the fate of the world…”
So, these vulnerable nations are urging all Parties to the UNFCCC to “consider and address the health, human rights and security implications of climate change, including the need to prepare communities for relocation, to protect persons displaced across borders due to climate change-related impacts, and the need to create a legal framework to protect the human rights of those left stateless as a result of climate change.”
President Nasheed told delegates at the Forum, “I refuse to believe that it is too late, and that we cannot do any better. Copenhagen is our date with destiny.”