From: Agnieszka Flak, Reuters, DURBAN
Published December 9, 2011 06:46 AM

Climate talks mean life or death for island states

So while climate change delegates haggle over deadlines, binding targets and finance, some of the world's poorest states are warning that rising sea levels and storms will sweep them away unless the world agrees to tackle global warning.


"We will be one of the first countries to go under water," said Foua Toloa, a senior politician on Tokelau, an island half-way between Hawaii and New Zealand that is no more than five meters above sea-level.

"We are a small and fragile nation very susceptible to environment and climate developments."

Grenada's Foreign Minister Karl Hood, chairman of the 43-nation Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), whose members are in the frontline of climate change, was even more blunt:

"If we don't act now, some of us will die."

Many low lying nations can already calculate the cost of rising greenhouse gas emissions in lives lost, economies shattered and landscapes transformed.

"By 2025, rising sea levels could lead to the displacement of at least 10 percent of the population", Comores Vice President Fouad Mohadji told delegates at climate change talks in the South African port city of Durban.

Sea waters could destroy 29 percent of the road network, 30 percent of the hotel infrastructure on which the islands' tourism industry relies, 70 percent of ports and airports, at a cost of $1 billion dollars.

"That is more than twice the country's gross domestic product," he said.

Delegates from almost 200 countries have until late on Friday to decide whether to commit to signing up to an internationally binding climate deal by 2015 at the latest.

The European Union is calling for a legally binding global deal to be reached by 2015 and implemented by 2020, but Fiji's Environment Minister Samu Saumutua says that would be too late to reverse rising sea levels that threaten to submerge its islands.

Photo from space of Tokelau Islands courtesy NASA.

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