AOSIS Opening Statement at UNFCCC Virtual Subsidiary Body MeetingsFebruary 23, 2021 FORUM: 2021 ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development EVENT: Open Debate SPEAKER: Hon Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda & Chair of AOSIS
Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, Distinguished Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I have the honor to deliver this statement on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (‘AOSIS’).
Make no mistake… climate change’s existential threat to our own survival is not a future consideration, but a current reality.
Climate change and its adverse effects negatively impact peace and security across the globe. The ever-increasing frequency and severity of tropical cyclones, droughts, sea level rise, and desertification all account for the displacement of populations, and are drivers for national and international conflicts worldwide.
For the past thirty years, AOSIS has been the single most consistent advocate on climate. Over that span of time, we have pressed for ambitious action through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, its Kyoto Protocol, and its Paris Agreement which remain today the primary international fora for determining the global response to climate change.
As Chair of AOSIS, I want to highlight the often-overlooked threats faced by our small island developing States (’SIDS’) specifically in light of our fragility and particular vulnerability.
For SIDS, our peace and security can be decimated on multiple fronts… sometimes at a moment’s notice. Whether it be:
- Sea level rise devouring our primarily coastal and low-lying communities and territories;
- More severe and frequent droughts, and ocean acidification whipping out our water and food security; or even
- More severe and frequent tropical cyclones rendering our States uninhabitable.
On this latter front, this was not a hypothetical for my country. Our experience relocating the entire population of the island of Barbuda to Antigua was nothing short of devasting and hit us to our core. That being said, I challenge the international community to also consider what if Hurricane Irma had shifted some miles South and hit both islands of Antigua and Barbuda:
- What would have happened to the entire population of my country? and
- What international plan and system would my country have recourse to, in the aftermath of such an attack to our peace and security?
All SIDS have and continue to live through constant assaults from climate change that undermine our peace and security. This would include:
- economic security;
- energy, water, & food security;
- national security;
- territorial integrity;
- our peoples’ right to self-determination; and
- state sovereignty.
As a result, my fellow SIDS leaders and I are forced to govern in extremely challenging circumstances caused by climate change, among other factors.
Compounded on these challenges, the international response to the root causes of these threats against SIDS’ peace and security is fragmentated and quite frankly inadequate. SIDS have observed a glaring gap in the international community’s pursuit for the widest possible cooperation by all countries for an effective and appropriate response.
As a particularly vulnerable constituency that contributed the least to the problem, we take this opportunity to remind States that we all have common but differentiated responsibilities to address climate change, its adverse effects, and associated loss and damage. Continuing our work without an equitable, coordinated, and sufficient global response leaves SIDS with gross uncertainties in relation to our population’s lives, livelihoods, and ways of life.
This is not to say SIDS do not see the value in preventative action. On the contrary, we understand and engage in adaptation actions as a means of preparing for the negative impacts of climate change. This is done to the greatest extent possible with the limited resources at our disposal. The pursuit of climate resilience is of the utmost importance to us. And there is a considerable need for support from developed countries via grant and concessional finance, capacity building, and technology transfer to achieve this resilience.
Furthermore, on preventative action we cannot ignore the crucial necessity for all State Parties to submit, and more importantly, implement ambitious, equitable, and evidence-based Nationally Determined Contributions in line with the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. It is of paramount importance that State Parties reaffirm unequivocal commitment to uphold the Paris Agreement and to take bold and decisive action to enhance their medium-term and long-term climate plans.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its exposure of a whole range of compounding risks which can exacerbate existing vulnerabilities and challenges including climate change, we wish to stress that environmental accountability and the safeguarding of our natural heritage is crucial to humanity and the planet’s survival.
There are, nevertheless, scientific limits to what we, as SIDS, can adapt to. As an international community, we must simultaneously plan and operationalize a system to address inevitable loss and damage which uproot SIDS’ peace and security. This calls on us to provide equitable solutions that are in line with countries’ international obligations and rights to systematically address difficult issues such as:
- climate change displacement including the treatment of climate refugees; and
- loss of territory.
Having a truly international plan and system for addressing these climate change-related disrupters to international peace and security will allow for its continued maintenance. Acknowledging that we live in an interconnected global economy, this organized and coordinated approach will benefit all parties concerned by providing some level of certainty on the required global response. I am very aware that these are difficult topics. But on this matter, I ask:
‘If not us, who? If not now, when?’
On that note, I commend the United Kingdom as President of the United Nation’s Security Council for organizing this high-level open debate on climate-related risk to international peace and security. It is of utmost importance that we continue addressing this problem.
Climate change demands inclusive governance solutions that involves adjusting old norms and incorporating new ideas. No singular technological innovation or international agreement is likely to solve the threat we face. As climate change continues to threaten peace and security, SIDS are asking for an all-hands-on deck approach.
I ask that consideration be given to my concluding two points.
- The Security Council should continue to host high-level open debates and climate security discussions that are inclusive of UN Member States, scientists, academia, and civil society.
- Consideration could be given to an inclusive UN Member State driven climate- security risk assessment tool that is both preventative and reactive to climatic events.
Finally, Mr President, for the past 30 years, small island and low-lying states have been sounding the alarm, sending the S.O.S. distress signal. We are losing our territories, populations, resources, and very existence due to climate change. The world is also facing this threat, and it is not by weapons, but by an enemy we all agree is real – climate change. Secretary General Guterres recently held on this issue that:
‘Without nature’s help, we will not thrive or even survive… For too long, we have been waging a senseless and suicidal war on nature’
Sadly, SIDS continue to be the frontline for this war. Our appeal for the Council is to take this threat very seriously before it is too late because… if not now, then when?
I thank you.