Arctic, Island & Advocate Voices Highlight Climate Impacts, Call for Stronger Targets

April 1, 2009

Urge Climate Negotiators, Members of Congress, and the Obama Administration to Adopt ‘Bolder’ Ambitious Emission Reduction Targets

WASHINGTON, April 1 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Voices from the frontlines of climate change and leading advocates today called for the climate negotiators currently in Bonn, Members of Congress, and the Obama Administration to commit to ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are threatening the existence of vulnerable communities in the Arctic, small island developing States (SIDS), and other places around the world.

At a briefing organized by the Climate Law & Policy Project (CLPP) and Many Strong Voices (MSV), a panel of experts expressed frustration with the sizable gap between the urgent and bold action that climate science and real-world observations indicate is necessary and the proposed commitments put forth in domestic and international political forums.

Arctic and island peoples are already experiencing significant climate impacts due to a rise in global average temperatures of about .75ºC (about 1.3ºF) since pre-industrial times, corresponding to an increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations from around 280 ppm to over 380 ppm. Yet the goal espoused by many in domestic and international policy processes is to limit warming to 2ºC (3.6ºF) – almost triple the amount of warming that has already occurred.

“The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the broader scientific community previously believed that if we limit atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations to 450 ppm and the global temperature rise to 2°C, then we stood a good chance of avoiding dangerous climate change,” explained Christopher Flavin, President of the Worldwatch Institute. “Recent studies, however, indicate that the climate system is more vulnerable to disruption than previously recognized. In order to avert the worst impacts of climate change, particularly on the most vulnerable communities, we need to achieve much more ambitious targets.”

“The emission reduction targets currently being discussed are not enough for native Arctic communities,” said Sheila Watt-Cloutier, longtime Inuit activist and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize nominee. “This is not an abstract scientific or political debate. There is a very human face to climate change. The hunter who falls through the thinning ice in the Arctic is connected to the community in the Indian Ocean being submerged by sea-water. Real lives and entire cultures are in jeopardy. The world must keep the Arctic frozen and small islands from sinking under.”

“The small island states and the Arctic communities – we stand at the forefront of climate change. We are already experiencing the impacts,” agreed Rolph Payet, who is a Special Advisor to the President of the Seychelles islands. “Achieving stronger targets means that we, islanders and polar peoples, will have a better chance of preserving our homes. We believe humanity can avoid this catastrophe. We believe there is hope, provided we take action now. The costs of inaction, delay, or weak action are too high to bear.”

Recent scientific findings have shown that urgent, short-term action is necessary to avoid catastrophic impacts; the emission reductions achieved by 2020 matter a great deal. The EU has committed to a 20-30% reduction below 1990 levels by 2020. The Obama Administration has suggested a target it deems more politically viable – a return to 1990 levels by 2020. But neither of these targets would protect the Arctic and island communities nor other vulnerable ecosystems around the world.

“The carbon-cutting goal should be shaped not by politics but by science,” argued Lester Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute. “We did not ask national leaders what they thought would be politically feasible. Rather we asked how much and how fast do we have to cut carbon emissions if, say, we want to have a decent shot at saving the Greenland Ice Sheet and at least the larger glaciers in the Himalayas and on the Tibetan plateau? How much and how fast do we have to cut emissions if we want to ensure the survival of vulnerable communities in the Arctic, small islands, and elsewhere?”

The panel of experts and the event organizers hoped their message would be heard not only in Washington, DC but also in Bonn, Germany, where the first of several international climate negotiations this year is underway, leading up to the Copenhagen conference in December.

The message, according to Ms. Watt-Cloutier, can be summarized fairly simply: “Our vision must be bolder.”

About CLPP & MSV

The Climate Law & Policy Project (CLPP) works to prevent the impacts of climate change from causing irreversible harm to humanity and the earth’s natural systems by promoting deeper reductions of the emissions that cause global warming, protecting the human rights of vulnerable communities, and developing and analyzing relevant policy approaches. To learn more, visit www.climatelawpolicy.org.

Many Strong Voices (MSV) is a collaborative program with the goal of promoting the well-being, security, and sustainability of coastal communities in the Arctic and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the face of climate change, by bringing these regions together to take action on mitigation and adaptation. MSV is made up of a consortium of partners represented by nearly 20 Arctic and SIDS nations. To learn more, visit www.manystrongvoices.org.

SOURCE Climate Law & Policy Project

Source: newswire

comments powered by Disqus