Small Island Nations Demand Urgent Global Action at SIDS4 Conference

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The once-in-a-decade SIDS Conference opened in Antigua and Barbuda today, with a clear message: the world already knows the challenges that SIDS face—now it’s time for action.

ANTIGUA, May 27 2024 (IPS) – “This year has been the hottest in history in practically every corner of the globe, foretelling severe impacts on our ecosystems and starkly underscoring the urgency of our predicament.

We are gathered here not merely to reiterate our challenges, but to demand and enact solutions,” declared Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Brown at the opening of the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States on May 27.

The world’s 39 small island developing states are meeting on the Caribbean island this week. It is a pivotal, once-a-decade meeting for small states that contribute little to global warming, but are disproportionately impacted by climate change. The Caribbean leader reminded the world that SIDS are being forced to survive crises that they did not create.

“The scales of equity and justice are unevenly balanced against us. The large-scale polluters whose CO2 emissions have fuelled these catastrophic climate changes bear a responsibility—an obligation of compensation to aid in our quest to build resilience,” he said.

“The Global North must honor its commitments, including the pivotal pledge of one hundred billion dollars in climate financing to assist with adaptation and mitigation as well as the effective capitalization and operationalization of the loss and damage fund. These are imperative investments in humanity, in justice, and in the equitable future of humanity.”

Urgent Support Needed from the International Community

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the gathering that the previous ten years have presented significant challenges to SIDS and hindered development. These include extreme weather events and the COVID-19 pandemic.

He says SIDS, islands that are “exceptionally beautiful, exceptionally resilient, but exceptionally vulnerable,” need urgent support from the international community, led by the nations that are both responsible for the challenges they face and have the capacity to deal with them.

“The idea that an entire island state could become collateral damage for profiteering by the fossil fuel industry, or competition between major economies, is simply obscene,” the Secretary General said, adding, “Small Island Developing States have every right and reason to insist that developed economies fulfill their pledge to double adaptation financing by 2025. And we must hold them to this commitment as a bare minimum.

Many SIDS desperately need adaptation measures to protect agriculture, fisheries, water resources and infrastructure from extreme climate impacts you did virtually nothing to create.”

Antigua and Barbuda Agenda for SIDS (ABAS)

The theme for SIDS4 is Charting the Course Toward Resilient Prosperity and the small islands have been praised for collective action in the face of crippling crises. Their voices were crucial to the establishment of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement.

Out of this conference will come the Antigua and Barbuda Agenda for SIDS (ABAS). President of the UN General Assembly, Dennis Francis, says that programme of action will guide SIDS on a path to resilience and prosperity for the next decade.

“ The next ten years will be critical in making sustained concrete progress on the SIDS agenda – and we must make full use of this opportunity to supercharge our efforts around sustainability,” he said.

The SIDS4 conference grounds in Antigua and Barbuda will be a flurry of activity over the next four days. Apart from plenaries, there are over 170 side events hosted by youth, civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, and universities, covering a range of issues from renewable energy to climate financing.

They have been reminded by Prime Minister Gaston Browne that this is a crucial juncture in the history of small island developing states, where “actions, or failure to act, will dictate the fate of SIDS and the legacy left for future generations.”

IPS UN Bureau Report

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