Climate change / sea-level rise in Fiji

Small Islands propose “below 1.5˚C” global goal for Paris Agreement

on June 8, 2015

A 1.5 degree limit must be a part of the Paris agreement – for the sake of present and future generations”

Bonn, Germany 8 June 2015— The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), is calling for the inclusion of ” below 1.5°C” as a long-term temperature goal and benchmark for the level of global climate action in the Paris agreement this year.

The group of 44 low-lying island and coastal states are the most vulnerable to climate change impacts, with entire countries under threat of total inundation – even at 2˚C of warming.

The group submitted a proposal on Thursday to the UNFCCC body reviewing the adequacy of the current goal of holding warming below 2°C following the conclusion of a science assessment of risks and impacts of climate change at 1.5°C and 2°C warming by the Structured Expert Dialogue.

This report confirms that the current global goal of “below 2°C” entails very high risks and that limiting warming to 1.5oC would significantly reduces impact and damages from climate change. The Structured Expert Dialogue report confirms the IPCC findings that limiting warming to 1.5°C is technically feasible, but requires faster action, than the 2oC goal

“1.5 To Stay Alive” has long been the AOSIS rallying cry, because it represents a level of global warming beyond which many vulnerable small island states will be overwhelmed by severe climate impacts.  The island states have now repeated this call in light of the Structured Expert Dialogue report. – under discussion in Bonn this week – that underscores the importance of the “below 1.5 degrees” as a global goal to limit warming.

“It is increasingly clear that the view of most vulnerable countries and the majority of Governments is the right one:  limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees must be a part of the Paris agreement – for the sake of present and future generations,” said Amjad Abdulla, AOSIS chief negotiator.

“Already, at just one degree of warming, our small island states are feeling the effects of climate change – deadly, and life-altering impacts – and they will only get worse as the world warms.  Our future depends on everybody accepting that 2 degrees is too much for us.”

Now, with an average global temperature increase of under 1°C, small islands have experienced impacts including severe coastal erosion, saltwater intrusion, marine habitat degradation, and powerful tropical storms such as Cyclone Pam and Typhoon Maysak that struck Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Kiribati, and the Federated States of Micronesia last season.

Media Background

In 2010, in Cancun, Governments agreed on a long-term global goal (LTGG) to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

 The COP also decided to periodically review:

- The adequacy of this long-term global goal in the light of the ultimate objective of the Convention, and

- The overall progress toward achieving the long-term global goal, including a consideration of the implementation of the commitments under the Convention.

The COP shall take appropriate action based on the Review (Decision 1/CP.16).

This review started in 2013 and concludes this year. The Review has a political component to prepare recommendations to the Paris COP, which is the Joint Contact Group (JCG) (of the is the SBSTA/SBI) and a scientific component which is the Structured Expert Dialogue (SED).  The latter has now completed its work.

Over 4 sessions, involving more than 70 experts including the Co-Chairs of the recent IPCC Fifth’ Assessment Report and IPCC lead authors, the SED assessed the state of the science on the two themes. The SED concluded its work and published its final report including a technical summary, which is an indispensable source of information for the UNFCCC negotiations.

Key findings of the SED report :

- Limiting global warming to below 2 °C is still feasible and will bring about many co-benefits. This effort necessitates a radical transition, not merely a fine-tuning of current trends.

- The world is not yet on track to achieve the long-term global goal, but successful mitigation policies are known and must be scaled up urgently.

- Significant climate impacts are already occurring at the current level of global warming and “additional magnitudes of warming will only increase the risk of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts”.

- In a world 2°C warmer than in pre-industrial times;

“The rate of climate change would become too rapid for some species to move sufficiently fast and migrate to their preferred temperature zones;

- Long-term sea level rise may exceed 1 m;

- Arctic summer sea ice will be further significantly reduced;

- Some unique systems would be at high risk;

- The risks of combined ocean warming and acidification would become high, and, for some phenomena such as mass coral bleaching, very high; and

- Crop production would be at high risk with some potential for adaptation.

- Many more moderate and high risks would emerge: indigenous people would be at risk of loss of land and cultural and natural heritage, and cultural practices embedded in livelihoods would be disrupted.”“…many systems and people with limited adaptive capacity, notably the poor or otherwise disadvantaged, will still be at very high risk, and some risks, such as those from extreme weather events, will also remain high.

In relation to limiting warming to 1.5°C the SED report says:

“Nevertheless, limiting global warming to below 1.5°C would come with several advantages in terms of coming closer to a safer ‘guardrail’. It would avoid or reduce risks, for example, to food production or unique and threatened systems such as coral reefs or many parts of the cryosphere, including the risk of sea level rise.” 

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