Friday, April 04, 2008

Small Island States debate Ocean Policy Issues at the 4th Conference on Oceans, Coasts and Islands, in Hanoi, Vietnam

A number of small island states representatives gathered today in Hanoi under the auspices of the 4th Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts and Islands to discuss ocean policy issues faced by small island states. The one day workshop was led by the Global Forum Secretariat, the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) and the Seychelles. Representatives of UNEP-GPA, UNESCO, the World Bank, the Nature Conservancy, the Japanese Ocean Policy Research institute, the Global Ocean Observatory also participated in the session.

The key debates in those sessions focused on the development of a SIDS ocean policy and strategy, and the need to focus of priority areas faced by SIDS. Priority areas identified included the urgency to adapt to climate change and sea level rise, sustainable management of coastal and marine resources including delimitation of the extended continental shelf, capacity building for adaptation and management, and the emerging threat of invasive species. Participants welcomed the invaluable support the Sea Level Rise Foundation will play in scaling-up adaptation and development of knowledge networks on climate change in small islands and other low lying areas of the world. Caribbean and Pacific representatives shared their experiences in the implementation of climate change adaptation and how vital it is to build adequate institutional responses and community resilience to climate change.


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Dr Edwin Webb (SOPAC) and Dr Rolph Payet (Seychelles) leading the discussions.


The challenge for all SIDS in meeting the requirements under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was discussed at length and SIDS agreed to pursue discussions during the main conference and argue for the provision of adequate resources and time to make their submissions to UNCLOS on the delimitation of their extended continental shelf.

Capacity building, including strengthening of the SIDS University Consortium, was singled out as one of the most fundamental opportunities for strengthening the ability of SIDS to manage their coastal and marine resources, implement the provisions of UNCLOS, as well as adapt to climate change. Communications, education and awareness were highlighted as key issues which need further strengthening.

The outcomes of this one day workshop will be incorporated into the policy brief on SIDS which has been prepared by Seychelles and will serve to guide SIDS intervention on ocean issues at the high-level session on the Global Forum next week.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Antarctica is losing large blocks of ice

Last week I watched in awe a large block of ice which broke off the Wilkins Ice Shelf (see Youtube video below). The size - the entire Seychelles islands put together - was not large by global terms, but enough to make an ordinary islander think long and hard. According to reports, this recent break-up could lead to a domino-like effect and cause the break-up of even larger parts of the Wilkins Ice Shelf.



Some members of the media and climate change skeptics were quick to state that such break-ups will not contribute significantly to sea level rise, whilst others argued that a similar amount is being frozen as ice elsewhere on Antarctica. The worry here is the trend, not the short-term minus and pluses of ice. The trend is likely to continue and whilst we are enthused by these isolated events, records from over 23 tide gauges around the planet show us a clear increase in sea level rise, hence the need for action. Lag effects in nature does not mean we have more time to adapt, but time to put in place adaptation measures.



Sea level measurements from tide gauge records in geologically stable environments show a rise of around 20 cm per century (2 mm/year). (Douglas, 1997)


This week I am attending the 4th Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts and Islands, and climate change is set to dominate the discussions. We cannot afford to continue to ignore the signs of a warming planet.