Fight for Survival Heats up in Bonn

In the last 24 hours, the fight for survival has heated up here at the UN Climate Talks in Bonn.

Island nations have been pushing for a discussion about how to reach the strong climate targets necessary to safeguard their survival, specifically limiting temperature rise below 1.5 degrees C and lowering C02 to below 350ppm. But at every turn, Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich countries have blocked any discussion about new targets, crassly telling countries that if they want more information on how climate change could impact their countries, they should just “Google it.”

This morning, the islands and their allies, unable to move forward without complete consensus, were forced to temporarily drop the call for a scientific review. Just minutes later, Ambassador Ronald Jumeau from the Seychelles joined 350.org in a press conference to talk about the latest developments.

Ambassador Jumeau started by explaining why it is important to be discussing new targets now, rather than waiting for a full scientific review over the next couple of years.

“We are convinced that sooner or later the whole world will be talking about 1.5 or less the way things are going,” he explained. “But the time that arrives, some of our countries may longer exist. They will be beneath the waves.

While the Copenhagen Accord talks about looking at a 1.5 degrees C target a couple years down the road, our argument has been we can’t afford to wait that long … The small island states do not have the luxury of time.”

To Saudi Arabia’s argument that a scientific review might reveal loopholes in the science supporting ambitious targets, Ambassador Jumeau responded, “We’re not scared of the gaps. On the contrary, we desperately want to find out if there are gaps in the science.”

Even though the formal discussions of a 1.5 C and 350ppm target has been blocked at the UN, Ambassador Jumeau was confident that the islands and their allies had achieved their larger goal of raising awareness about the need for stronger action.

“If this was an attempt to silence the issue of 1.5, I don’t think it’s going to work,” he said. “One way of attracting attention to an issue is to try and squash it in front of public opinion. Even in not getting what we wanted, in a sense we still got the whole of the UNFCCC community talking about the issue.”

The public’s efforts have also been key in raising the need for stronger targets. May Boeve, our US campaign director at 350.org, reminded the media of the major mobilizations that took place last year around October 24 and Copenhagen.

“All of these actions were 100% in support of these scientific targets and the countries that are championing them,” May said.

To countries like the United States that constantly reference the political difficulties of reaching a strong target like 350ppm, May responded, “Political realities can be changed, physics and chemistry can’t.”

She continued, “Political reality means something very different for the vulnerable countries among us. It’s one thing to see the political reality of trying to get votes in the Senate, it’s another thing to see the political reality of your nation’s entire survival at stake.”

The other speakers at the press conference, Hans Verolme a climate expert from the Climate Action Network, and Carlos Fuller, a technical advisor the Association of Small Island states, also made it clear that we’re running out of time to change the political landscape.

“We are seeing the impacts of climate change already,” said Carlos, who works with scientific research station across the Caribbean. “They are devastating for us.”

As citizens, it’s our job to shift the political landscape and try and prevent future catastrophic impacts. That’s why thousands of us are busy preparing for the 10/10/10 Global Work Party, a day to show the solutions to climate change and send a clear message to our world leaders: get to work. As Ambassador Jumeau reminds us, some of us don’t have the luxury of delay.

Ambassador Jumeau concluded with a message for countries like Saudi Arabia and others who are trying to silence the call for survival.  “AOSIS is not going to role over and die or play dead. We are not going to be silent. We are event more determined now to push the issue and anything associated with the issue. Some of us have everything to lose.”

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