On the first of the year, I assumed Chair of the alliance after the position rotated to the Pacific region. It is a critical time for island communities around the world who are at front lines of climate change. Sea level rise, coastal erosion, prolonged droughts and ocean acidification are just some of the impacts already affecting our communities. These impacts and others are forecasted to become more frequent and intense as the planet’s temperature continues to rise.
Being from the Pacific, I know firsthand the devastating impacts of climate change. In the past few months alone, we survived a record-breaking drought in Tuvalu and catastrophic floods in Fiji. Even more terrifying, sea levels are projected to rise by a meter or more, which would completely inundate Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, and Kiribati unless greenhouse gas emissions are dramatically curtailed. Severe impacts are not limited to my region of course – the low-lying Maldives and Seychelles in the Indian Ocean are at great risk from surging seas and more intense and frequent storms and hurricanes threaten the islands of the Caribbean elsewhere around the worlds as well.
We know that the international response to the climate crisis falls well short of what is needed, not just to protect island people, but all of the world’s inhabitants. To that end, we are looking at ways to ratchet up emissions reduction ambition and to partner with committed countries to find the additional reductions that science shows is needed to give all of our members a fighting chance for survival.
This will be our manifest challenge over the next few years: to work with the international community to stabilize emissions at a level compatible with the survival of all nations, and provide the resources needed to help vulnerable communities adapt to impacts that may now be unavoidable, and develop sustainable futures.
We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I am confident that together the world’s small island countries and people everywhere who our concerned about leaving a safe climate for future generations can bring about the change we need.