The Guardian • Issue #2083

Drowning states

  • by Anna Pha
  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2083
Tuvalu.

Tuvalu. Photo: Taiwan Presidential Office – flickr.com (CC BY 2.0).

“The window for 1.5 degrees is rapidly closing. Every fraction of a degree matters. Every ton of carbon dioxide counts. We need immediate and drastic action, not just promises and platitudes.” This was the message to the COP28 climate meeting in Dubai from delegates belonging to the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis).

Aosis is a grouping of 44 countries including Pacific, Caribbean, African, and Indian Ocean islands.

“The impacts of climate change are already causing loss and damage in our countries. We need a comprehensive and effective mechanism to address this growing challenge.”

“Our islands are not pieces of real estate on a map. They are our homes, our cultures, our identities. We will not be sacrificed on the altar of inaction,” one Aosis delegate said.

“Developed countries must share clean technologies with developing countries on fair and equitable terms. We need technology that is affordable, appropriate, and accessible to all.” The small islands called for predictable, accessible, grant-based finance, not loans that burden their already fragile economies.

The COP28 talks failed to agree on phasing out fossil fuels or pledge the necessary finance. With the World Bank set to administer the loss and damage fund and a call for more private capital, the future looks grim.

The small island developing states (SIDS) face similar concerns due to their limited resources and in many instances low-lying land. They are a group of 52 countries that face similar challenges due to their size, remoteness, and lack of resources. The two groups overlap.

“We are on the front lines of the climate crisis. Our islands are being battered by rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and ocean acidification. Our very existence is threatened,” SIDS group said.

“We need urgent support to build our resilience and adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change. This includes investments in infrastructure, early warning systems, and climate-smart agriculture.”

They also called for an interim target of a 50 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 compared with the 43 per cent adopted at COP28. “This is the only way to ensure a safe future for our islands and for all vulnerable communities.”

“Climate change is not a burden we should bear alone. Developed countries, which are historically responsible for the majority of emissions, must take the lead in reducing emissions and providing support to developing countries.” Developed countries paid lip service to meeting their responsibilities.

Australia made a submission to jointly host COP31 in 2026 with the Pacific islands – “our Pacific family” as the Australian government representing fossil fuels polluters cynically calls it.

Australia made a commitment to phase out funding that provides financial guarantees for the coal, oil, and gas projects of Australian companies’ overseas operations, but did not cut domestic subsidies to the fossil fuel sector.

The island states emphasised the existential threat climate change poses despite their minimal contribution to global emissions. They strongly urged developed nations to raise their contributions, phase out fossil fuels, and lead in achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

Anne Rasmussen, lead negotiator for Aosis, was critical of the COP president for reaching a final decision when the SIDS were not in the room. They were discussing their response to the final draft, in the belief it would be debated.

“… we have come to the conclusion that the course correction that is needed has not been secured,” SIDS said.

“… We do not see any commitment or even an invitation for Parties to peak emissions by 2025 … It is not enough for us to reference the science and then make agreements that ignore what the science is telling us we need to do. This is not an approach that we should be asked to defend.”

Rasmussen referred to “a litany of loopholes” that does not “advance us beyond the status quo.”

The small island states left disappointed, not listened to on key points, and the future not secured for future generations.

Ensuring a just transition to a low-carbon future is crucial. COP28 needed to address the concerns of vulnerable communities and ensure that the costs of climate action are not borne disproportionately. It failed.

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