Asia-Pacific countries, some of them threatened with extinction from rising sea levels, took to the podium of the United Nations General Assembly today to call for an urgent global approach to mitigate climate change, voicing concern at the lack of progress so far.
“Climate change is no longer an environmental or political issue,” said Deputy Prime Minister Vete Palakua Sakaio of Tuvalu, a low-lying country of atolls in the direct line of onslaught from rising oceans.
“It is a borderless human security issue. Everybody must act to urgently reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions and provide adaptation,” he added, echoing concerns already expressed by other leaders of small island developing states (SIDS) and least developed countries (LDCs) at this year’s 68th Assembly General Debate.
On a new post-2015 development agenda to succeed the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) cycle, the theme of this year’s 68th Assembly, he stressed the importance of partnerships. “The UN continues to be a beacon of hope and through strategic advocacy, and awareness-campaigns, brings the real issues and current events into the consciousness of the public and membership to propel action and redress,” he said.
“The scale of challenges can only be addressed by reforming ourselves, the UN and each member country.”
Deputy Prime Minister Manasseh Maelanga of the Solomon Islands called for a new spirit of partnership to reform the global economic architecture. “Climate change remains a global issue that needs a global solution,” he said.
“We join all SIDS and LDCs in conveying our concern on the slow progress of climate change negotiations. The alarming pace of climate change is posing unprecedented threats to humanity’s survival.”
Deputy Prime Minister Leo Dion of Papua New Guinea called for SIDS to remain a special case for sustainable development as the UN draws up a post-2015 blueprint for long-term sustainable development for the decades following the end of the current Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) cycle.
“The adverse impacts of climate change continue to be of serious concern to the global community but especially for small island developing States,” he said. “While contributing the least to this threat, small island countries are not only suffering the most from the serious impacts of climate change but also run the risk of being submerged by rising sea levels...
“We therefore reiterate the challenge to the international community to accept its responsibility and leadership role.”
The Pacific countries received support from another small island but highly developed State – Singapore, which called for the views and concerns of small nations to be incorporated in the post-2015 development agenda as a priority.
“Many, especially small island developing States are among the more vulnerable members of the UN family,” Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said. “Singapore identifies closely with our fellow SIDS countries' urgent concerns.”
He also cited two other priority areas: allowing countries flexibility in which goals they choose to prioritize and how they will achieve them; and emphasizing urban management and the intertwined issues of water and sanitation.
“The UN has a critical role in the evolution of the post-2015 development agenda,” he declared. “Only the UN, with its universal membership and access to global data, has the standing to establish a new global development agenda that is inclusive, effective and adaptable.”
Thongloun Sisoulith, Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic. UN Photo/Ryan Brown
Lao People’s Democratic Republic also highlighted the UN’s important role in establishing the new development blueprint. “It is more crucial than ever for the international community to redouble its efforts in enhancing development cooperation based on sincere and mutual assistance for the benefits of all and for a secured world,” Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith told the Assembly.
“As the world today becomes increasingly inter-dependent, no single country can develop and survive on its own without engagement and cooperation of the international community. In this context, the global institutions, like the United Nations, have an important duty to fulfil in advocating international development cooperation."