Page last updated at 15:09 GMT, Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Poor nations vow low-carbon path

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Food aid convoy
Some countries believe climate change will increase the need for food aid

Poor countries considered vulnerable to climate change have pledged to embark on moves to a low-carbon future, and challenge richer states to match them.

The declaration from the first meeting of a new 11-nation forum calls on rich countries to give 1.5% of their GDP for climate action in the developing world.

It also calls for much tougher limits on greenhouse gas emissions.

The forum was established by Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed to highlight the climate "threat" to poor nations.

The declaration contends that man-made climate change poses an "existential threat to our nations, our cultures and to our way of life, and thereby undermines the internationally protected human rights of our people".

There is another reality that trumps domestic political realities
Saleemul Huq, IIED

The Maldives are threatened principally by rising sea levels, as are other other nations within the Climate Vulnerable Forum (V11) such as Bangladesh, Vietnam and the Pacific island of Kiribati.

President Nasheed recently held a cabinet meeting underwater to highlight the issue.

The forum also includes nations likely to be impacted by melting glaciers essential to freshwater supplies (Bhutan and Nepal) and by drought (Kenya and Tanzania).

Domestic row

The V11 declaration is in part an appeal for richer nations to promise more at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen next month, which is supposed to agree a new global treaty on climate change.

Whereas a loose consensus has emerged around the idea of limiting greenhouse gas concentrations to the equivalent of 450 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide, this group thinks that is too much and calls for a target of 350ppm.


The forum's members also think they will feel impacts so sharply - perhaps rendering some countries uninhabitable - that the west has a duty to pay more substantial sums of money than are currently on the negotiating table for Copenhagen.

They want rich nations to pledge 1.5% of their GDP, as well as meeting the widely accepted target for aid of 0.7% of GDP.

Many poor countries maintain that in the run-up to Copenhagen, rich governments are paying more attention to their domestic political concerns than to the international implications of their decisions.

"The key message to rich countries is that what seems like them to be a domestic political difficulty is for the vulnerable nations an existential problem," said Saleemul Huq, senior fellow in climate change at the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), which gave technical support to the Maldives meeting.

"They're saying 'getting a good deal for us means survival, but you seem to be coming to the table only with what's feasible domestically' - and there is another reality that trumps domestic political realities," he told BBC News.

The declaration commits the 11 signatory nations to a goal of carbon neutrality, even though their collective carbon emissions are a tiny fraction of the global total.

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