Small islands plea for help to fight climate change

United Nations (ANTARA News) - The fate of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) depends on the world`s ability to turn financial commitments into a reality, something that has so far proved elusive, Vanuatu`s Minister for Finance and Economic Management Sela Molisa said here on Monday.

"There have been too many pledges and commitments but these have not been followed through," Molisa told reporters during a meeting of the United Nation Commission on Sustainable Development. "When we speak of the financial crisis, we see trillions of dollars coming out but when we talk about our situation, it`s different."

SIDS, a category of nations most vulnerable to the deleterious effects of climate change, are part of the larger UN group -- the Least Developed Countries (LDCs). The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a global secretariat, has asked LDCs to draw up National Adaptation Programs of Action (NAPAs) to identify urgent and immediate climate-related issues that need funding.

But since 2001, only 10 LDCs -- out of some 45 -- have received funding for their NAPAs, said Amjad Abdulla, the director of the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Water of the Maldives.

"How can we bridge the gap of implementation?" Abdulla asked. " The urgency is there. The delay in implementing these (NAPAs) threatens our survival."

On small islands nations, the signs of climate change are everywhere, from rising sea levels to coral bleaching to the salination of fresh water supplies. Many populations living on low- lying islands have had to move to higher land, creating friction and discord among populations who often share few things except for a national identity.

With over 100 local languages spread over the archipelago of Vanuatu, the tiny nation is considered to have the highest density of languages per capita in the world. As local indigenous groups move to higher-lying islands, competition for scarce resources and land have created insecurity and heightened tensions.

"Traditional land owners will start to make demands on those who are relocating there," Molisa said of the migration patterns taking place in his country. "And, once the food is threatened, the security implication is there."

Last year, the UN General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution urging the relevant organs of the UN to intensify their efforts to address the security implications of climate change. This marked a victory for Pacific island nations, which had been lobbying the Security Council to accept climate change as part of its mandate.

But, said Molisa, progress on this front was lacking.

"We want all organs of the United Nations to take climate change under its wing and have a focused approach," he said. "We would like to see more from all the organs ... and we would like to the Security Council take a stronger role."

The Copenhagen Accord pledged 30 billion U.S. dollars in fast- start funding for 2010-12 to help developing nations adapt to climate change. UN Environment Program (UNEP) Chief, Achim Steiner, said in February that a loose framework under which developing nations could apply for some of the funding could be ready within three months.

But five months after the Copenhagen summit and there is still no matching mechanism between donors and the most vulnerable. There is not even a guarantee that the funding will be new or in addition to previous pledges made.

"The window to reverse the effects of climate change is fast closing," Molisa said. "We are on front line and the world is not listening. Certainly, the fate happening to us will happen to others." (*)

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