UNGA General Debate Addresses Impacts of Climate Change, SIDS’ Vulnerability
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During the general debate of the 66th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), leaders from SIDS and developing countries highlighted their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, and called for a successful outcome at the upcoming Durban Climate Change Conference.

26 September 2011: During the general debate of the 66th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), a number of speakers referred to the impacts of climate change, addressing, inter alia, the specific vulnerability of Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the prospects for the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 17) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), and the impacts of climate change on food security and disasters.

Botswana called for “more to be done with the collective resources available” to address climate change. Ethiopia emphasized that the effects of climate change were increasingly evident in the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) region, noting that Africa and the developing world were the worst affected, while contributing the least to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Congo urged the international community to support efforts of countries of the Congo basin to achieve sustainable forestry and good forest governance, end illegal logging and implement the REDD+ processes. He called for the successful conclusion of negotiations on a post-Kyoto agreement, stating that the Durban Conference should produce an international instrument open for signature before the start of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20) in 2012. Also referring to Durban, Nicaragua underlined that the Conference provided an opportunity “to redirect humanity towards development that is harmonious with Mother Earth,” and emphasized that climate change had exacerbated the food crisis.

Cambodia lamented that many promises made during the Copenhagen and Cancun climate meetings remained undelivered. He underscored the need for the upcoming Durban Conference not to be “another delusion,” but a venue to “share the responsibility and to achieve a real breakthrough.” Uruguay stressed the need for changes in production schemes to address climate change.

On the particular vulnerability of SIDS to climate change, the representative from the Maldives underscored that since its country stood just 1.5 meters above sea level, it was faced with the “clear and present danger” of climate change. He underlined that reducing GHG emissions to below 350 parts per million was not only an environmental issue, but also “an issue of national security and a chance to create new jobs and grow the economy.” He announced that his Government would dedicate a minimum of 2% of its revenue to renewable energy investments. Bahamas stated that the increased frequency and intensity of disasters reinforced the need for global attention to the adverse effects of climate change. Sao Tome and Principe said SIDS required greater assistance to confront the economic challenges they faced, including studying the effects of climate change. Marshall Islands cautioned that the international climate negotiations were at risk of entering a phase of political stalemate. Declaring that his country could wait no longer, he explained that the Marshall Islands was choosing creative paths to drive urgency into the broken negotiations, including by joining with Mexico in urging the UNFCCC to consider the use of voting as a means of last resort, and joining Pacific SIDS to push for the Security Council to recognize that climate change posed a threat to international peace and security.

Germany indicated it would continue to be “in the vanguard of the fight against climate change,” adding that the fight against climate change was an integral element of preventive diplomacy. Andorra qualified climate change as “the most serious challenges facing the international community.” Iceland discussed the impacts of climate change on oceans and fisheries, stressing the urgency of conclude a post-Kyoto agreement on GHG reduction. Tajikistan indicated that it had submitted a proposal to establish an international fund on saving glaciers in Central Asia that were threatened by the impacts of climate change. [UNGA Plenary Summary]

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