Island states urge far tougher U.N. climate goals
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent
BALI, Indonesia (Reuters) - Saying that rising seas might wipe countries off the map, small island states urged rich nations at U.N. climate talks on Saturday to axe emissions of greenhouse gases far beyond their existing plans.
"The principle must be that no island must be left behind," said Angus Friday of Grenada, chair of the 43-member alliance of small island states at December 3-14 climate talks at a beach resort in Bali looking for new ways to fight global warming.
Low-lying states, such as the Maldives in the Indian Ocean or Tuvalu in the Pacific, were already suffering from rising seas and storm surges linked to climate change. And in the long term, many low-lying atolls risked being washed away.
"We want drastic action," Friday told a news conference.
The group said that even the strictest goals by industrial nations were insufficient to avoid dangerous change, including a European Union target of limiting warming to a temperature rise of 2 Celsius (3.6 F) over pre-industrial levels.
"Emissions must be reduced at a level that ensures that global temperature rise remains well below 2C," the alliance said in a statement.
The Bali talks, of more than 10,000 delegates, are seeking to launch negotiations on a new global deal, to be agreed by 2009, to fight climate change. The small island states seem to be making toughest demands that the rich should lead the way.
The U.N. climate panel projects that seas will rise by 18 to 59 cms (7-23 inches) this century -- threatening the economies of small island states that often depend on farming, fishing and tourism. Seas rose 17 cms over the past century.
And the small islands said they would need far more aid. "The infrastructure needs alone of the most vulnerable countries could measure in the billions" of dollars, Friday said.
The government of the Maldives, for instance, needed $175 million to build a barrier around a single coral island to make the atoll "twice the height of this chair" above sea level, he said.
"We are not in this process as beggars," said Clifford Mahlung of Jamaica, adding that small islands were not to blame for climate change, blamed by the U.N. climate panel mainly on greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels.
"In Jamaica we used to repair coastal roads from erosion and storms once every four years," he said. "With what is happening now we have to repair those roads four times a year."
Friday said Grenada, long considered south of the Caribbean hurricane belt, had been reclassified after two storms within 10 months in 2004-05. Losses from Hurricane Ivan alone in 2004 were $800 million.
But he also said that small island states had dropped past threats to sue the United States, the top emitter of greenhouse gases, for compensation. "That's not under discussion," he told Reuters.
The United States is outside the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol, the main plan by industrialized nations for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases. But Washington has expressed willingness to join a new climate pact that includes developing nations.
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(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)