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Leaders from vulnerable island states plead for aid on climate action

UNITED NATIONS

Faced by catastrophic impacts of global warming, leaders from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Oceans have requested the UN for increased aid to resolve the problem.

The leaders were speaking at the United Nations General Assembly on Friday, the fourth day of its annual general debate, a UN statement said here on Saturday.

A total of ten island leaders addressed the Heads of State and Government about not only the catastrophic impacts of climate change caused by centuries of industrial pollution from northern nations, but the disadvantages they face in the financial domain as soon as they improve the lot of their people.

According to St.Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Michael Chastanet, as soon as a country graduates from the status of low income country or least developed country (LDC) in UN parlance – with an annual per capita gross national income (GNI) below $1,005, to middle-income country (MIC), with a GNI between $1,005 and $12,235, it loses access to concessionary financing, noting the acronyms weighing down his Caribbean State.

“I stand before you today as a leader of a small Island developing State (SIDS), which is also a middle- income country (MIC),’ he said.

“The world acknowledges our ‘acronyms,’ but little or nothing changes – We continue to struggle under the weight of international frameworks that do not provide an enabling environment for my country to chart an effective sustainable development path, or even to be able to take control of our own destiny.”

From the Pacific island nation of Samoa, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, said it was a moral imperative for the world to act decisively and collectively, calling for full implementation of the Paris climate accord that seeks to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels.

“Climate change poses the single greatest threat especially to small Island developing states like Samoa, not through our doing or choice,” he said, alluding to the fact those most vulnerable to climate change’s impact are those who contributed least to global warming.

“The Pacific region is already facing the destructive impacts of climate change and disasters — cyclones, floods, droughts. Sea level rise and ocean acidification are taking their toll on the health and the wellbeing of our peoples, environment and economies. Disaster-related economic losses in Pacific island countries as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) are higher than almost anywhere else in the world,” he added.

“The United Nations remains our last best hope to provide the political will and the necessary commitment to turn the tide against climate change.”

From the Indian Ocean, Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth of Mauritius took a global view of the issue.

“As we have seen in California, the Carolinas, the Philippines, China, Europe and elsewhere, the frequency of extreme weather events demonstrates that the impacts of climate change can affect every country on every continent. Hurricanes, floods, droughts, and wildfires are becoming deadlier,” he warned.

“Without a renewed global commitment to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects we will fail to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement, and endanger our planet as well as our own survival.”

Hubert A Minnis, Prime Minister of the Bahamas, highlighted the enormous dangers facing the Caribbean islands, with economies dependent on tourism under dire threat.

“We see this in rising sea levels, the loss of coral reefs, the increased volume of acid in our oceans, and more severe and frequent hurricanes and typhoons,” he said.

“Tourism is the world’s largest industry. It is also the lifeblood of the Bahamian economy. Millions of tourists travel to the Bahamas annually because of our beautiful turquoise waters and biodiversity,” he added, stressing the vital importance of the sustainable use of the world’s seas and oceans free from pollution, especially of plastics.

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