Island nations seek climate relief funds

Associated Press / November 12, 2010

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TARAWA, Kiribati — Small island developing states called yesterday for urgent funding to help combat sea level changes that are already damaging many coastal communities.

At a climate change conference in the South Pacific nation of Kiribati, President Anote Tong called for the quick release of funds to help vulnerable states deal with climate change impacts.

He said small island nations remain optimistic that a global legally binding agreement can be reached on cutting greenhouse gas emissions over the long term, but that the most vulnerable countries cannot wait much longer for financial aid to save their coasts.

“The message we are trying to make here very clearly is that we are running out of time, and as long as the global community continues to debate, it may be too late for some of our communities,’’ he told reporters.

“We are suffering already, we are feeling the effects. We . . . don’t have the next five years to negotiate, so some very firm decision is needed for funding to be accessible and available.’’

As the world’s glaciers and ice caps melt, coastal areas of low-lying island states are being inundated by rising sea water levels. States like Kiribati and Tuvalu in the South Pacific and the Maldive islands in the Indian Ocean are seeing coastlines, coastal villages, and gardens drowned under high tides.

Most of the world’s nations will meet in Cancun, Mexico, later this month for the latest round of talks on practical steps toward alleviating the effects of climate change and to slow the growth of carbon emissions that contribute to global warming.

Low-lying Kiribati suffers sea water incursion into its 32 coral atolls that reach no more than 6 feet above sea level, and blames global warming for rising seas. Whole villages have had to be relocated because of severe coastal erosion.