SAMOA’S SLADE LEADS SMALL
ISLAND STATES’ PRESSURE OVER GLOBAL WARMING
By Jennifer Sieg
NEW YORK, New York (April 24, 2001 - IPS/PINA Nius Online)---The
37-member Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) has called for strong
and credible action to tackle the international threat of climate
''We are least responsible for, but most vulnerable to the effects of
climate change, and so we find ourselves at the forefront in the fight
against global warming,'' says AOSIS chairman Ambassador Tuiloma Neroni
Slade of Samoa.
The Alliance says it is ''profoundly concerned and disappointed'' by the
recent U.S. decision to reject the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which requires
the global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to prevent dangerous
human interference with the earth's climate system.
''While all regions are likely to suffer, the scientific evidence has
singled out small island communities as being the most vulnerable to
climate change,'' it notes.
Ministers and delegates from half a dozen small island states - St.
Lucia, Grenada, the Maldives, Jamaica, Kiribati and the Cook Islands –
announced their commitments to renewable energy as a means to control
greenhouse emissions that contribute to global warming, at a ceremony
Friday commemorating Earth Day 2001.
The United Nations celebrated Earth Day on Sunday, April 22.
The event was part of the ninth session of the Commission on Sustainable
Development, taking place at the United Nations from April 16 to 27.
Energy and the atmosphere are key themes of the talks.
''Clean energy is central to the global efforts to save the environment
and also is a tool for economic and social development,'' said Tom
Roper, a representative of the Climate Institute.
The Institute, along with Winrock International, Counterpart
International, the Organization of American States, and the Forum for
Energy and Development (FED) co-hosted the event. With the exception of
FED, which is based in Denmark, the other the non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) are international in character with branches
The consortium launched the Global Sustainable Energy Islands Initiative
(GSEII) last November at the Climate Change Conference in The Hague, and
is assisting island nations in their energy transformation efforts.
The consortium says that small island states are struggling with
expensive fossil fuel import costs and an inability to supply
electricity in rural areas.
However, these states are especially suited to utilize combinations of
modern renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency due to the
availability of renewable energy resources and current energy
consumption patterns, according to the consortium.
Bishnu Tulsie, a senior official from the Ministry of Planning in St.
Lucia, outlined his country's ambitious plan, which he says should
result in a 35 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2010.
The government will encourage the exploitation of new and renewable
energy technologies, including wind farms and solar heating units.
St. Lucia also advocates the aggressive pursuit of efficiency and
conservation measures to reduce demand by 15 percent over the next
decade. Suggested demand-side control measures include promotion of
public transportation and a move toward alternative-fuel vehicles.
Tulsie said, his government will encourage private sector development by
providing tax incentives for the use of renewable energy and full
waivers of customs charges on imported sustainable energy technology.
''The issue for us is not one of economics, it is of survival,'' he
Countries at or just above sea level are among the most threatened by
the effects of climate change. In many cases, much of their land area
rarely exceeds three to four meters (about 10 to 13 feet) above sea
If current projections are correct, the estimated 1.4 to 5.8 degrees
Centigrade rise in temperature over the next century could create sea
levels and storm surges that could send significant portions of these
nations to the bottom of the ocean.
In addition to rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions, damage
to fishing stocks, salinization of agricultural land, and contamination
of water supplies are all potentially devastating consequences of global
A recent report issued by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)
estimated that worldwide damage resulting from climate change could cost
over 300 billion dollars annually, and some low-lying countries could
see losses exceeding ten percent of their Gross Domestic Product by
The Earth Day announcement comes on the heels of criticism of the United
States' rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, in which industrialized nations
agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent below
1990 levels by 2012.
Earlier this week, the Group of 77, the 133-member coalition of
developing nations - as well as some of the United States' closest
allies – expressed concern that the world's largest producer of
greenhouse gases had chosen to abandon the Kyoto agreement. The United
States accounts for approximately 25 percent of greenhouse gas
AOSIS said it ''believes the United States has a solemn responsibility,
indeed a moral duty at the very least, to lead the world community in
the struggle against global warming.''
A number of delegates at the Earth Day event reiterated similar
''The Kyoto Protocol is central to global efforts to address human-
induced climate change, but the lack of support from the United States,
to whom we look for principled leadership in many respects, makes those
steps very difficult for us,'' warned Tangata Vavia, Minister of Energy
in the Cook Islands.
In the meantime, nations represented at the ceremony said they will
continue to pursue the goals outlined in the Kyoto Protocol.
''We will do whatever we can, because this is the issue of our very
existence,'' Tulsie said.