New York—Last night, leaders from the Alliance of Small Island States’ (AOSIS), a group of 43 low-lying and coastal states that are highly vulnerable to climate change, adopted a Declaration on the sidelines of the 67th United Nations General Assembly that calls for urgent action to address the climate change crisis.
“Climate change is progressing so rapidly, and the current and expected impacts are so alarming, it is absolutely critical that all of the world’s leaders immediately engage in the crisis and begin a serious dialogue about how their countries can specifically begin reducing emissions to the levels science shows is required to avoid a catastrophe. We need a global response to the crisis at an unprecedented level and that will demand leadership at the highest level,” said President Sprent Dabwido of Nauru, Chair of AOSIS.
The Declaration refocuses attention on the urgency of climate change at the once-a-year gathering of world leaders at a time when international leadership on climate change is flagging, even as extreme weather events and record-breaking droughts linked to climate change are becoming more severe and costly.
“We, the Member States of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), meeting in New York this 27th day of September 2012,” the declaration begins, “Recalling the Charter of the United Nations, and reaffirming the principle of the sovereign equality of all nations… are gravely concerned that climate change poses the most serious threat to our territorial integrity, viability and survival, and that it undermines our efforts to achieve sustainable development goals and threatens our very existence. We reaffirm the sovereign rights of all SIDS in light of the adverse impacts of climate change…”
The Declaration also outlines concrete steps that must be taken at the 18th Conference of the Parties in Doha at the end of the year in order to achieve essential short-term emissions reductions.
“Building on the progress achieved thus far we underscore our commitment to work towards a successful outcome at COP18/CMP8 in Doha, including the following elements:
“Adoption and provisional application of the Doha Amendments to the Kyoto Protocol pending their entry into force that:
- Ensure the widest participation of Annex I Parties in a second commitment period;
- Establish a five-year second commitment period to run from 1 January 2013 to 31 December 2017;
- Establish more ambitious quantified emission limitation or reduction commitments for all Annex I Parties to the Kyoto Protocol; and
- Limit the use of surplus carry over units in the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol to ensure environmental integrity.”
The severity of the climate crisis, and the unique risks faced by small islands, was underscored during a science presentation given by Professor Sir Robert Watson at the summit that summarized some of the latest research on climate impacts.
Some of the findings he presented included information from a recent analysis that showed an unprecedented 97 percent of the Greenland ice sheet was melting this summer and another that found even if global warming is kept below 2 degrees Celsius, a goal that is increasingly uncertain, coral reefs around the world would still undergo severe degradation from ocean acidification and bleaching.
Both occurrences could prove catastrophic for low-lying islands already struggling to manage sea level rise and for the billions of people around the world who depend on healthy coral reef ecosystems for tourism and fishing businesses.
The current chair of AOSIS, the Republic of Nauru, hosted the summit and the declaration was the first by AOSIS leaders since 2009, prior to the Copenhagen climate negotiations. The full Declaration is available at http://www.aosis.org
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