Island states urge U.N. to study rights, climate link
By Ajay Makan
MALE, Maldives (Reuters) - Small island states called on the United Nations on Wednesday to assess whether a link exists between failure to tackle climate change, which threatens to wipe their countries off the map, and human rights.
But the 26 nations from around the globe failed to agree on an resolution backing a human rights agenda meant to take on big greenhouse gas polluters at a U.N. climate change summit in Bali, Indonesia next month.
The Maldives and other vocal island states blame the United States and other big polluters for climate change and say their inaction to curb greenhouse gas emissions will destroy their economies through rising seas and wild weather.
The Alliance of Small Island States used the two-day meeting to highlight what it said was a human right "to live in a safe and sustaining environment." It said "climate change directly and fundamentally undermines that right."
But Jamaica and Antigua and Barbuda were cautious, delegates said, that an explicit recognition of human rights would boost pressure on their own governments to improve political rights.
The Alliance represents 43 countries with a population of fewer than 15 million people, ranging from wealthy Singapore in Southeast Asia, Fiji, Kiribati and Tuvalu in the Pacific and Caribbean nations.
Alliance delegates will meet international lawyers and civil society groups to develop a common agenda ahead of the Bali summit, which aims to kick-off negotiations for global pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
Alliance Chair Angus Friday expressed optimism the group could still adopt a common platform at the Bali summit. He also hailed the resolution as a first step towards an international recognition of the link between climate change and human rights.
"We have to be realistic about the timescale, but we have started a process today," he told reporters.
The resolution at the end of the meeting called for a U.N. study into linkages between human rights and climate change and a March 2009 debate at the U.N. Human Rights Council.
"The right to life as we know it is threatened. My people survive by praying," Tuvalu's ambassador to the U.N. told Reuters.
Delegates met at one of the Maldives' flagship deluxe resorts, refurbished following the 2004 tsunami, a reminder of the country's vulnerability to rising seas.
(Editing by David Fogarty and Michael Winfrey)