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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on April 18th, 2007
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

From the 1994, Barbados Programme of Action: “While small island developing States are among those that contribute least to global climate change and sea-level rise, they are among those that would suffer most from the adverse effects of such phenomena and could in some cases become uninhabitable. Therefore, they are among those particularly vulnerable States that need assistance under the UNFCCC, including adaptation measures and mitigation efforts.”

AOSIS is The Alliance of Small Island States, a UN body consisting of 43 nations with common bond of environmental and economic vulnerability.   This is a coalition of small island and low-lying coastal countries that share similar development challenges and concerns about the environment, especially their vulnerability to the adverse effects of global climate change. It functions primarily as an ad hoc lobby and negotiating voice for small island developing states (SIDS) within the UN.

On Friday April 13, 2007, a new Bureau was created at AOSIS, and Dr. Angus Friday, the Ambasador of Grenada, was elected by aclamation to head this Bureau. We think that this was a lucky Friday for AOSIS, because   Medical Doctor Friday   has had experience with the private sector in the financing for sustainable development in the island of Grenada following the devastating impact of Hurricane Ivan. Ivan fell upon Grenada in 2004, and caused extreme devastation that required a practical rebuilding of most everything on the island.

During the brake at the UN Security Council’s Open Debate on Energy, Security, and Climate, Ambassador Dr. Angus Friday, the Permanent Representative of Grenada, and Ambassador Collin Beck, the Permanent Representative of the Solomon Islands, presented at a Press Conference the establishment of the new Bureau for their organization. The Bureau will focus on practical efforts to deal with the mitigation of the special vulnerabilities of the islands – in the Caribbean, in the Pacific, and the AIMS (Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean, South China Sea).

The UN DPI report for the PRESS CONFERENCE BY the PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE of GRENADA in the context of   GLOBAL WARMING is as follows:

“Against the backdrop of heightened awareness of the negative impacts of climate change, the Alliance       of Small Island States announced today the creation of a new Bureau that would focus on practical initiatives to mitigate the environmental and economic vulnerability of its member States.

Angus Friday, the Permanent Representative of Grenada to the United Nations and newly appointed Chairman of the Bureau, told reporters that the Alliance — a coalition of 43 economically and environmentally vulnerable nations, formed during the 1992 Rio Summit — had kept those issues in the media spotlight.

The detrimental effects of climate change and global warming raised the spectre of “environmental refugees”, particularly in the Pacific, where it was likely that residents of low-lying islands would be forced to migrate to neighbouring countries.   Such events would broaden the definition of “security” to encompass the security of people’s livelihoods, he said.

Much of the groundwork for the Bureau was laid in the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, which in 2004 wiped out 90 per cent of Grenada’s housing stock and completely devastated its nutmeg crops, the country’s primary export.   Such destruction had highlighted the tight correlation between environmental and economic vulnerability.

Going forward, he said, the Bureau would emphasize practical implementation of existing conventions and resolutions that addressed economic vulnerability.   As previous studies and programmes on sustainable development and renewable energy had lacked financing, the new Bureau would focus on financing such projects to ensure that they became operational.

The Alliance envisioned a new partnership within the United Nations, he said, noting the need to move beyond General Assembly debates to finding practical solutions that mitigated the economic and environmental impacts of climate change.   Ultimately, small island States would like to be net contributors to global economic and social development, rather than net receivers of aid.

Responding to a question on the unique challenges faced by small island States, Mr. Friday called attention to the correlation in the Caribbean between ocean heating and hurricane ferocity.   To highlight that point, he noted that prior to 2004, Grenada had been located below the hurricane belt, meaning that yachts travelling to the country during hurricane season would be covered by insurance.   After Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Emily in 2005, that insurance classification had been removed, and Grenada’s burgeoning yachting industry had been severely affected.

Moreover, he added, rising sea levels impacted low-lying islands.   Explaining the translation of “Bahamas” as “Baha” meaning “low-lying” and “mas” meaning “mass”, he said such areas were particularly vulnerable to sea-level changes.

Turning to a question on the threats to biodiversity, he pointed out that island nations derived much of their economic productivity from the seas.   For example, the loss of Caribbean coral reefs to bleaching caused by global warming had impacted local fishing and tourism industries.   With the loss of biodiversity came the loss of genetic material that could be important for biotechnology, he added, noting that vaccines to treat HIV/AIDS and viral diseases had been developed using Caribbean coral reefs.   Flora and fauna which clung to marine rocks contained powerful enzymes that could be used for medical purposes.   The Alliance would examine that untapped potential.

On whether small island States envisioned a common energy policy similar to that recently introduced by the European Union to reduce the Union’s dependence on certain energy suppliers, Mr. Friday said fossil fuel dependence was a huge concern for vulnerable small island States.   For example, the manufacturing base in Trinidad, an oil producing country, was far more competitive than that in neighbouring Grenada, which, as an oil consumer, acutely felt the impacts of oil price fluctuations.   It remained to be seen whether islands like Grenada could ever develop a competitive manufacturing base.

Noting the high toll fossil fuel costs took on the budgets of small island nations, Collin Beck, the Permanent Representative of the Solomon Islands — itself grappling with the impacts of a recent tsunami — added that the Alliance would focus on tapping renewable energy sources to promote industrialization.

Returning to the definition of bleaching, Mr. Friday said that undersea coral was often yellow or orange in colour, due to the presence of living material on it.   Lifting that coating would expose the hard, white, calcium exoskeleton underneath.

Asked about a scenario — similar to one recently debated in the Security Council — in which small island States would collectively object to pollution problems caused by larger nations, Mr. Friday responded that he had not heard the Security Council debate and further, that such matters fell outside the ambit of the Alliance.

Asked if Grenada had a position on whether climate change was properly placed before the Security Council, Mr. Friday said that that debate would hinge on two things: the definition of “security” and the Security Council’s capacity to address such issues.  

Broadening the definition of security would leave room for those matters to be discussed within the Council.   However, Grenada would not be drawn into that debate.   There was no question that such a debate would highlight global warming and climate change issues, and that the international community could not move fast enough to combat the negative effects.

However, it was time to implement existing resolutions, he stressed, adding that there was ample expertise within the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council to take things forward.

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To add to the DPI release, we would like to reinforce the impression that Dr. Friday is not out there to fight for a location of where to place the negotiation table – this on which UN organizations’ terrain.
Neither is he interested in fighting wars for who is to blame – rather, and we assume this comes from his previous experience from helping rebuild Grenada after Ivan, he wants to bring to the island states direct private enterprise interests that have the understanding that it is important not to lose the particular potential that these states have of becoming productive participants in the global economy, which is obvious, if we think of tourism and biodiversity. There could be also specific specialized agriculture and plenty of agricultural potential for local use. Each island state is different, but the danger from climate change is a unifier, and in this respect an equalizer.

As an example of how the extension of the Hurricane region towards the southern Caribbean affected the possibility of getting an insurance in Grenada – Dr. Friday pointed out that after Hurricane Emily in 2005, the insurance against Hurricanes cannot be obtained in Grenada anymore, as global warming sort of pushed it into the “Hurricane belt.”

Economically, the high price of oil was also a downer, In the Solomon Islands with 1/3 of the budget going for fuel that ends up energizing only 20% of the population of 500,000. This is why the Solomon Islands, like many more Island States, is shopping for renewable energy. It was also mentioned that by establishing such systems for the SIDS carbon credits can be obtained for the cooperating factors.

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