PARIS –– United States’ President Barack Obama underscored the impact of climate change on the world’s most vulnerable countries in a meeting with the heads of government of small island countries on Tuesday.
The 40-odd countries in the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) negotiating group at the COP 21 climate conference face rising sea levels that threaten to submerge their livable land.
The meeting with Obama, attended by the leaders of St Lucia, Barbados, Kiribati, and the Marshall Islands, among others, was intended to elevate the role of the countries in the Paris negotiations. AOSIS countries have been pushing for more ambitious action to stem greenhouse gas emissions at the Paris conference. Current projections suggest that some countries may disappear entirely within decades without action.
“These nations are not the most populous nations; they don’t have big armies,” Obama said. “But they have a right to dignity and sense of place.”
Obama also said he had a special connection to the island countries, given his time in Hawaii and Indonesia as a child.
“I’m an island boy,” he said, conceding that some of the resolutions arrived at in Paris must be legally binding on the international community.
Caribbean nations have been pressing for a legally binding agreement to emerge from COP21.
Caribbean Community (CARICOM) chairman Prime Minister Freundel Stuart of Barbados and lead head of government on climate change Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony of St Lucia also represented the region in a meeting between United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and leaders of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) on Monday.
Chairman of the CARICOM Task Force on Climate Change and St Lucia’s Minister of Sustainable Development Senator Dr James Fletcher and CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque joined the heads at the meeting.