Wednesday, April 09, 2008

President Michel calls for leadership by the developed nations to address climate change

The 4th Global Conference on Oceans, Coasts and Islands was officially opened this morning in Hanoi, Vietnam by the Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam, Dr Pham Gia Khiem.

A keynote address by the President of Seychelles, Mr James Michel, was delivered by video to a gathering of over 430 participants from over 71 countries, which included several high-level participants such as the ministers, ambassadors and the CEO of the Global Environment Facility. In his speech, President Michel called for urgent action on the issue of reduction on greenhouse gases, and immediate adaptation to climate change in small island states. He also drew attention to the urgent need to reverse ecological damage of the coastal and marine environment as a result of increasing consumption patterns and destructive methods of exploitation. He highlighted the commitment of Seychelles and the establishment of the Sea Level Rise Foundation to pursue this agenda at the highest global policy level and challenged all participants to indicate how they could implement the global strategy of oceans for the future of our planet. In particular, he proposed the development of a specific work programme on SIDS and climate change.

His speech is reproduced below:


president Michel Ladies and Gentlemen,

The sub-prime mortgage crisis and the bankruptcy of a number of financial institutions have been in the headlines for weeks now. We are all at risk from this crisis, and no nation is spared of its consequences. But we face a far greater risk: the bankruptcy of our ecosystem. In our quest for well-being and prosperity, we have paid little heed to the well-being of our planet – the spring of life itself. Thus we take for granted our resources. We take for granted water; we take for granted our oceans. And we do so at our own peril.

We’ve indiscriminately harvested the oceans for food, medicines, mineral resources, leisure etc. without due regard to their role as regulators of freshwater and the climate.

Isaac Asimov once said: “If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them.”

We urgently need a change in policy by the world economic powers. Consumers need to start paying for the real cost of consumption. We need adequate resources to be able to reverse climate change and the ecological damage we have wrought. We need to focus on better alternatives and technologies, some of which are ready for implementation. We need to strengthen our existing institutions to develop an integrated and multi-stakeholder approach to implement the solutions. Above all, we need clear leadership and commitment at the global level. Failure to address ocean issues is failure to address poverty, climate change and sea level rise.

I am calling for leadership by the developed nations - not bargaining - for a global consensus on emissions reductions. The Bali Roadmap on Climate Change should lead to clear action on adaptation, mechanisms to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and above all allow the deployment of technologies and financing for both adaptation and mitigation measures to developing countries. With this in mind, I aim to push for a clear and time-bound programme of action on climate change adaptation in Small Island Developing States.

In September 2007 I launched the Sea Level Rise Foundation to coincide with the UN Secretary General’s High Level Event on Climate Change. The Sea Level Rise Foundation is a global platform of excellence on adaptation to sea level rise and under the guidance of a team of global leaders we are ready to bring about this programme of action on climate change. I am confident that you will all support the Sea Level Rise Foundation and provide this additional catalyst to bring together knowledge, technologies and resources to address this urgent and crucial issue.

To conclude, I wish to congratulate the Global Forum for keeping the issues of oceans on the global agenda. Our work towards a successful global oceans strategy and policy beyond this present decade is invaluable and fundamental in a domain where leadership is wanting.

Let me challenge all of you gathered here this morning to commit to the implementation of at least one component of this strategy. We can all commit, whether it is with our access to resources, our advocacy work, our network or with our leadership to make a better world for future generations.

The warning signs of a sick planet are upon us. Let us commit ourselves to restoring our planet’s harmony.

Thank you.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

From consumer society to island survival

The problem of climate change is not emissions, it is consumption. Emissions is just the evidence of our high level of consumption. Mainstream development theory tells us that higher levels of consumption stimulate production, jobs and eventually the creation of wealth. However, it also does bear serious implications for the worlds natural resources, including the water we drink and the air we breath.

Here is what Jared Diamond had to say in his Op-Ed in the New York Times "The average rates at which people consume resources like oil and metals, and produce wastes like plastics and greenhouse gases, are about 32 times higher in North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia than they are in the developing world." In the US, there is one car for every two persons, but in developing countries there is a passenger car for about 68 persons. Can one imagine why the planet is in trouble? This is the reason why developed nations should take the lead in greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

Today, climate change, which is a consequence of consumption, threatens the future of many small islands around the world by causing sea level rise and dramatically altering weather patterns. In my interview (see below for the You-tube link) at the Global Oceans Conference, I explain the inter-connectedness of the global environment  and how it affects the future of small islands across the planet.