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Small Island States, Facing Rising Seas, Seek Economic Overhaul

Small island states facing a "frightening" rise in sea levels will seek investments in everything from solar energy to fisheries to boost their economies at a U.N. summit next week

By Alister Doyle

OSLO, August 25 (Reuters) -

Small island states facing a "frightening" rise in sea levels will seek investments in everything from solar energy to fisheries to boost their economies at a U.N. summit next week.

Leaders will meet in Samoa in the Pacific from Sept. 1-4 to drum up partnerships with companies, development banks and donors on projects that bring in dollars and jobs while protecting oceans and environments, organizers said.

Many islands from the Indian Ocean to the Caribbean are suffering erosion and coastal flooding from storm surges as global warming raises sea levels by melting ice from the Himalayas to Greenland.

"Beaches disappearing, hotels and port facilities having to move - it is for some countries a very frightening outlook," the head of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner, told Reuters.

Islands were interested in developing fisheries, moving into eco-tourism and shifting to wind and solar power from imported diesel to generate electricity, among other projects, he addded.

Small island states say they are often overlooked by investors, even though Steiner said islands including the Seychelles, Barbados and Mauritius have made strides to cleaner economic growth.

The countries have also accused developed nations of failing to keep promises made at previous summits in 2005 and 1994.

 

RICH NATIONS FAULTED

Aid has been "over-promised but under-delivered. This is the biggest hurdle," Marlene Moses of Nauru, chair of the 44-nation Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), told Reuters.

"We are calling for a paradigm shift" to take more account of the needs of island states, she said.

A draft AOSIS statement, obtained by Reuters, mainly faults rich nations for failing to address global warming.

"International action to address climate change remains grossly inadequate, and emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise at a distressing rate," it says, calling for more action "with developed countries taking the lead."

Developed nations say they have met some aid goals, despite austerity at home, for instance providing $30 billion from 2010-12 to help developing nations cope with climate change.

Sea levels have risen about 20 cms (8 inches) since 1900 and are projected to rise by another 26 to 82 cms by the late 21st century, threatening many low-lying atolls.

Some communities are even moving. The authorities of Choiseul, a provincial capital in the Solomon Islands with about 1,000 people, said this month that they had decided to relocate from their small island.

 

(Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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