NEWS: ACP Commonwealth states call for climate change action
Reuters, 25 October 2011: African, Caribbean and South Pacific states on Tuesday said big greenhouse gas emitters China and the United States were dragging their feet on tackling climate change and urged a Commonwealth leaders summit this week to call for urgent action at global climate talks in November.
"The scientific evidence available to us says we ought to act now," said Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Malielegaoi after a meeting of 48 small island and developing nations in Perth.
"This is the message that we want to tell the whole world, that we are all one," he told a news conference ahead of the Commonwealth summit starting Friday.
Global warming is set to be a focus for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), ahead of a major U.N. climate change conference in South Africa from Nov. 28.
Many Commonwealth members are developing nations that are vulnerable to a predicted increase in more extreme droughts, floods, rising sea levels and spread of infectious diseases.
Low-lying Tuvalu in the South Pacific, the Maldives in the Indian Ocean and several Caribbean island states fear rising sea levels could wipe them off the map.
Australia, which is hosting CHOGM, said the very existence of some small nations depended on the world avoiding average global warming by two degrees Celsius.
"If we fail to do so we can kiss goodbye to some small island states," said Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.
Samoa directly cited China and the United States for failing to act on climate change, while Australia noted that while the 48 small states felt the greatest impact from climate change they represented less than one percent of emissions.
"Two of the biggest countries (China and the United States), which are almost responsible for about 40 percent of emissions, do not seem to be forthcoming in their commitments," said Malielegaoi.
The Obama administration has shelved efforts to price carbon emissions because of political and business opposition and will only agree to a broader climate deal if all major carbon emitters agree steps to curb greenhouse gas pollution. China will not sign up unless Washington does but has enacted carbon intensity targets across the economy and other steps.
The Commonwealth's poor African members fear failed harvests and mass displacement of people unless rich nations make deeper cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and stump up with more cash to help them adapt.
Poorer nations want wealthier states to pledge deeper emissions cuts as part of a new global climate pact and to offer billions of dollars in long-term financing to pay for clean-energy technology and steps to help farmers become more resilient against increasingly extreme weather.
Samoa said the 48 small states called for the speedy disbursement of funds promised by developed nations.
"Another major focus of small states is the need to ensure that the funds that have been mobilised need to be released speedily to the most disadvantaged and most affected countries," said Malielegaoi. "We would like to ensure countries that have promised funds to own up, to provide help to countries."
The biggest pot of cash on the table is the $100 billion a year Green Climate Fund. Climate talks last year in Cancun led to an agreement that the Fund should be created and 40 countries have been tasked with trying to sort out how the fund will work by the Durban talks.
A U.N. committee has completed the draft design of the fund, paving the way for its launch in 2013, the U.N.'s climate chief said on Friday, but it is unclear if nations will agree on the design in Durban.
Samoa said climate change funds should be disbursed via bilateral channels, citing Australia's funds which have been used to help South Pacific island adaptation programmes.
(Reporting by Michael Perry; Editing by David Fogarty)