Security Commentaries

The SIDS are positioning themselves as drivers for climate action in the international effort to combat global warming.

Lina Laur, Taiwan Center for Security Studies

St. Lucia Embassy hosts ceremony on climate change cooperation with TCSS (Source: Embassy of Saint Lucia in Taiwan)

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report released on February 27th pointed out the urgency to reduce carbon emissions and limit the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees. “As the temperature rises, the adaptive capacity decreases and adaptation costs increase,” underlines the report. In his allocution for the World Leaders Summit, Tuvalu Prime Minister Kausea Natano emphasized this stark reality: “Tuvalu and other low-lying atoll nations are sinking, and our land is fast disappearing.”

During the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP) at Glasgow in 2021, two microstates moved forward to fight against climate change. The prime ministers of Antigua and Barbuda and Tuvalu signed an agreement establishing the “Commission of Small Island States on Climate Change.” The Commission allows new legal instruments to enforce pollution compensation from bigger states by requesting an advisory opinion fromthe International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). This initiative highlights the existential crisis experienced by the 65 million inhabitants of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) due to global warming.

As a result of this critical threat caused by most developed countries over the years, COP 26 was highly anticipated by SIDS, demanding accountability and imposition of concrete measures to compensate for the loss and damages suffered from their activities. Developed countries were responsible for 79% of the carbon emission between 1850 and 2011. In contrast, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and other developing countries in Asia (except China) were only responsible for 12% in the same timeframe.

In retrospect, COP 26 marked a significant improvement in orienting climate actions by mentioning the diminution of fossil fuel and coal production and the strongest wording to describe the loss and damage caused by pollution for the first time. The latter opened the debate on “loss and damage repairment,” which was until now taboo. With support from the Least Developed Countries Group, the Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS) proposed considering the ‘Glasgow Loss and Damage Facility’ to tackle the issue. However, most developed countries encouraged the idea of  “dialogue” for the next two years, which unmet the SIDS expectations of more concrete measures provoking their frustration and wrath.

SIDS anger finds its roots in the continued indifference to their warnings of the dangers of global warming. As early as 1991, Vanuatu submitted a proposal to the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) regarding climate change action. Later on, numerous summits and discussions followed worldwide, attempting to awaken decision-makers. To name but one, the Kainaki II Declaration for Urgent Climate Action Now (2019) submitted by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders was a call to limit global warming to a maximum of  1.5°C above the pre-industrial temperature levels.

In the last webinar organized by the Taiwan Center for Security Studies, the Ambassador of Belize to the United Nations, Carlos Fuller, stressed the utmost importance of looking at climate finance beyond the COP mechanism. According to him, it is necessary to establish a multi-vulnerability index. Firstly, it would standardize the assessment of risks encountered by developing countries and allow SIDS to access new kinds of funding they would require to prepare and adapt to climate change. Secondly, those countries look for debt forgiveness to allow them to develop without increasing their initial debts. Thirdly, special drawing rights under the IMF system should be available to developing countries to access other potential resources.

It is, therefore, more than ever crucial that SIDS work together and raise a common voice to be heard by the international community. On the way to COP 27, SIDS and developing countries must join their efforts and define together clear goals and guidelines to be the key players in global warming discussions. They need to implement concrete measures that would efficiently mitigate the effects of global warming. 

Lina Laur is an undergraduate student from SciencesPo Paris. She is studying international relations and political humanities with a particular focus on Asia.

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