Sun, Dec 14, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Island nations will accept no delay in climate talks

THE GUARDIAN , MILAN, ITALY

A group of 40 small islands, some of which are under imminent threat of disappearing beneath the waves, Friday night, blocked attempts by major states to delay climate talks for 18 months.

The Alliance of Small Island States, some of the smallest countries in the world and the most vulnerable to climate change, desperately need the <<>pounds>30 million relief fund agreed on by the climate change conference in Milan, to help them adapt to environmental changes. But the release of the funds depends on agreement between the 120 countries party to the Kyoto protocol, which deals with the reduction of carbon dioxide levels.

Enele Soponga, chairman of the small islands' alliance and ambassador to the UN of the Pacific island of Tuvalu, said his country and its 12,000 people would be the first to go under. The main island had been inundated three times this year. Vegetable plots had been washed away and there was no drinking water. Some families had moved to New Zealand, but older people wanted to stay.

"To survive the dry periods we now need desalination plants run by solar energy, but we have no money for that, we need help from countries that created the emissions and got us into this mess," he said.

He said neighboring Kiribati and the Marshall islands, with 80,000 people each, were also close to sinking. "There is no urgency among the big nations. We sometimes get the feeling they are going to let us die," he said.

EU ministers were leading most of the developed world in hoping to postpone to May 2005 the meeting of the parties to the climate change convention, in the hope that after the Russian and US presidential elections next year the political process of tackling the climate could be brought back on track.

The Kyoto protocol, heralded as a great breakthrough in 1997 when the developed world signed up to legally binding targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, is in limbo until Russia decides to ratify it. Ministers have no plan B, and are banking on Russia keeping its pledge to take part -- which would give the treaty legal force.

President Vladimir Putin now appears to be using his country's role in keeping the treaty alive as a bargaining chip to gain concessions from the EU on oil and gas prices during World Trade Organization trade talks.

The Russians have been making contradictory statements about their intentions almost daily during the Milan conference.

According to the original convention, a new round of negotiations should already have started on what actions are needed to avoid dangerous climate change after 2012, when the cuts demanded under the Kyoto protocol should have been made. These were always seen as a first step.

Further commitments were on the agenda for Milan, but were never discussed - the impossibility of making progress defeating ministers.

Instead of postponing the ministerial conference until 2005, the meeting will now take place next year, as originally planned.

This story has been viewed 3551 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top