2 september 2013

Rising anxiety as climate change dominates 44th Pacific Islands Forum

Xinhua, English news 2013-09-02

Majuro, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- A tense opening session of the 44th pacific Islands Forum has been dominated by appeals from pacific leaders for 'real action' against the threat of rising sea levels associated with climate change.

Speaking at the International Conference Center in Majuro, the capital of Marshall Islands, the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, responded to a presentation from Nobel Peace Prize Professor Elisabeth Holland by decrying what he intimated as the dollar approach of 'theoretical scientists' to an issue that requires 'concrete action.'

Slade said, " when speaking of trading I feel worried we maybe shifting attention to what may be taken away from the real actions that are direct actions to be done to save these islands.

Holland, the co-recipient with Former U.S. Presidential nominee Al Gore of the 2007 Nobel Prize and the Director of the Pacific Centre for Environmental and Sustainable Development at the University of the South Pacific told a panel of experts on climate leadership that pacific islands had a resource bound in negative emissions worth almost 5 billion U.S. dollars at the current global exchange rate.

"I found that collective emissions from Pacific islands countries we have negative emissions of 8.1 gigatons already." Holland said.

Newly installed Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga, echoed Slade's concerns despite island nations compiling negative emissions through Ocean carbon sink holes and forest regrowth, which he described as good news, but that the time for trading carbon was over.

"I think we have to be very cautious that we are not sending mixed signals, what must be done is concrete action on the ground to save small islands." Sopoaga said.

Professor Holland, a contributing author to several intergovernmental panel climate change assessment report's described herself as a theoretical scientist forced to become a ' practical scientist in facing the realities of the impact of rising sea levels in the pacific.

Holland said there was hope, despite the prevailing view here that concrete action was required 'yesterday.'

"It is still possible to choose a different path and this where we need the pacific leadership to come together with the scientific community."

However, the Holland's optimistic assessment was dismissed outright by the Tuvaluan prime minister in a blunt attack from the floor that received spontaneous applause.

"The situation is dire," he said.

"There is simply no point of talking about sustainable development if we cannot reverse the impact of climate change."

The 44th Pacific Islands Forum is being held on Tuesday in the Marshall Islands, one of the world's most climate exposed nations, and runs until Thursday.

Climate science 'alarming', 'irrefutable': Kerry

Business Standard, September 2, 2013

US Secretary of State John Kerry said today the evidence for climate change was beyond dispute but it was not too late for international action to prevent its worst impacts.

"The science is clear. It is irrefutable and it is alarming," Kerry told a climate conference in Majuro in the Marshall Islands in a video address from Washington.

"If we continue down our current path, the impacts of climate change will only get worse."

Kerry said without strong, immediate action, the world would experience threats to critical infrastructure, regional stability, public health, economic vitality, and the long-term viability of some states.

Washington's top diplomat was addressing climate experts meeting on the eve of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in the Marshall Islands, a low-lying nation where rising seas threaten to swamp many atolls.

"I stand with you in the fight against climate change," he pledged, adding the issue was a global crisis that was beyond one country to fix and needed urgent global action.

"If we act together, there is still time to prevent some of the worst impacts of climate change," he said. "But the people of the Pacific Islands know as well as anyone that we also need to prepare communities for the impacts that are already being felt."

Kerry is not attending the PIF, with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell representing the United States instead.

Earlier, European Union Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said the threat facing low-lying island nations showed that international action on the issue was overdue.

Hedegaard expressed concern that some countries may try to delay a 2015 deadline for implementing reductions in emissions and increasing reliance on alternative energy sources.

She said Europe and the Pacific island nations would work together to push the international community to honour the deadline.

"We have to make a joint pressure to say the world is already more than late (in addressing climate change)," she told the conference in the capital Majuro.

"2015 must be taken seriously."

The 15 PIF nations include islands states such as Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshalls, where many atolls are barely a metre (three feet) above sea level and risk being engulfed by rising waters.

The PIF is set to finalise a "Majuro Declaration" on climate change this week, which aims to reinvigorate global efforts to contain global warming.

The plan is to then present the declaration to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the General Assembly meeting in New York at the end of September, "to reenergise the international community".

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