Paris—Ahead of the highly-anticipated United Nations climate change conference that begins here this week, perhaps the generation’s last chance to forge a legally binding international climate agreement, Thoriq Ibrahim, Maldives’ environment minister and chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), released the following statement on behalf of its members:

“The year leading up to this essential conference, from Geneva in February to Paris this week, has been punctuated by extreme weather events that have struck our members around the world—from deadly typhoons and cyclones in the Pacific, to Hurricanes in the Caribbean, to record tides and floods in the Indian Ocean. Slower onset events like sea level rise and ocean acidification continue to assault our small states. Climate change in all its forms is a new reality for us and it is getting worse.

“What’s more, the latest science confirms what we are seeing with our own eyes: The World Meteorological Organization reports that 2011-2015 has been the warmest five-year period on record and that this year is on track to be the hottest ever.  Warming has now reached 1oC. At the same time, our islands are experiencing the impacts of an ongoing extreme El Niño and the science is telling us that such events will occur twice as often over the 21st century if we do not act strongly and decisively.

Additional magnitudes of warming will only increase the risk of such severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts.”

“As the past year alone so graphically illustrates, our members are particularly vulnerable to climate extremes and climate change impacts and we are acutely aware of the vanishingly little time remaining to adopt a legally binding climate treaty.

“To achieve the objectives of the Convention and protect the interests of all our members, the Paris agreement must contain the following elements:

“First, with respect to mitigation, we are very concerned that the INDCs brought forward this year have us heading for about 3 degrees of warming.  This would spell disaster for many small island states and other vulnerable countries.  It is therefore critical that the Paris Agreement is “designed for ambition” to quickly get us back on track.  A long-term temperature goal of “well below 1.5 degrees” must be reflected in the Paris Agreement, along with an indicative pathway for achieving it, including urgent peaking and deep mid-century emissions reductions. 

“Second, the agreement must do more than set collective goals, but must also demand increasingly ambitious mitigation over time from all as part of a robust process that takes into account the most recent science and technological opportunities. 

“Of course, developed countries must continue to take the lead, and developing countries, especially the most vulnerable, will need support to make this happen.

“Third, the Paris agreement must explicitly recognise the special needs and circumstances of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

“Fourth, to address extreme weather events, sea level rise, ocean acidification and other severe impacts, an international mechanism on Loss and Damage must be a central and distinct element of the Paris package and lead to meaningful action. Climate change is already happening and it will only get worse in the years to come. Some impacts cannot be addressed through adaptation at all, given its inherent limits.

“Finally, tackling climate change and adapting to its impacts will require significantly scaled-up, new, additional and predictable financial resources, starting from the minimum of $100 billion USD per year by 2020. This should include special provisions to enhance access by SIDS, especially to public, grant-based support for adaptation, given the particular challenges and the attendant existential threat that climate change poses to our countries. For AOSIS, finance is critical to effective implementation, and in light of our capacity constraints, simplified access is imperative.

“Today, the world is united in Paris by a shared understanding that we have to cooperate as an international community in order to solve our generation’s biggest challenges. Addressing climate change demands concerted action for many years to come. AOSIS firmly believes this effort must start here and now in Paris.