Tiny Tuvalu Sues United States Over Rising Sea Level
JOHANNESBURG - The United States faces new challenges in the courts over
its climate policies despite denying that the world's biggest polluter
is responsible for global warming.
The government of the tiny Pacific island state of Tuvalu today said it
planned to launch lawsuits within a year against the United States and
Australia. Both have rejected the Kyoto protocol on climate change.
Tuvalu, which is only four metres above sea level at its highest point,
faces oblivion if the scientists' gloomy scenarios prove right and
global warming causes the sea to rise. Tuvalu blames the rising sea
level on global warming, caused by polluters.
Yesterday, the US city of Boulder, Colorado and two environmental groups
launched a suit against US government finance agencies for bankrolling
fossil fuel projects overseas.
The plaintiffs said the extra emissions of heat-trapping greenhouses
gases would exacerbate global warming and the resulting climate changes
would damage their farms and property.
Although the legal threats are small scale, environmentalists say they
could be a taste of things to come as victims of rising sea levels and
increased droughts and floods go after those they see as responsible --
the main polluters.
"Until the United States takes significant action, it is vulnerable to
this type of lawsuit," said Jennifer Morgan of WWF, formerly the World
Wildlife Fund, on the sidelines of the World Summit on Sustainable
Washington pulled out of the Kyoto protocol on climate change last year,
saying its requirement for developed countries to reduce emissions from
sectors like industry, transport and agriculture would hurt its economy.
Despite a voluntary programme to reduce "energy intensity", and a raft
of local initiatives, US emissions continue to rise.
A report released today by US advocacy group the National Environment
Trust showed the United States' 288 million population emit the same
amount of greenhouse gases as 2.6 billion people living in 151
Looking at emissions state by state, the study found the worst polluter
was President George Bush's home state of Texas whose oil-rich 22
million people are responsible for emissions equivalent to those of one
billion of the world's poor.
Although lawsuits from the likes of Tuvalu and Boulder, Colorado, are
unlikely to give US leaders sleepless nights, they will add to the
political pressure on the Bush administration which has come under fire
at the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
Bush has declined to join more than 100 world leaders for the finale of
the summit, marking 10 years since the first Earth Summit in Rio which
spawned global efforts to tackle climate change.