Fiji Ambassador: small island nations matter in the climate change war

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Photo credit: Lee Thomas | Lifestyle Editor | [email protected]


Peter Thomson, Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the U. N. told UVU students Dec. 7 why small island nations should matter to the U.N.

Out of 193 nations, 40 of them are designated small-island developing states (SIDS) he said. Together as the Alliance of Small Island States, they make up about about six percent of the United Nations. This gives them a lot of leverage, which Thomson feels they need in order to have their voices heard.

“We feel like a region that is under existential threat. That threat, of course, comes from climate change,” Thomson said.

The Pacific SIDS nations are already bracing for an expected minimum sea-level rise of 1.5 meters over the next 90 years.

“We have to be the front line warriors in the climate change war,” Thomson said.

At current predictions the Republic of Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu are in danger of going under water. He said this is a tragedy in terms of culture, but it’s not just island states that need to worry. Many major food production areas around the world are in low-lying deltas. Thomson said there are vast areas of the world that will go underwater even with current predictions.

“It’s hard news for humanity,” he said.

The Pacific SIDS has been trying to gain a larger voice at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris (COP21). He said they wrote a wish list of what they hoped would happen at the talks.

Although Thomson doesn’t think they will get a legally binding agreement out of the talks, he does think they can make an impact and influence the outcome in a big way.

On a more positive note, he said the recent 230 Agenda of sustainable development goals was passed.

“If the goals are all achieved in the 15 years span of the 230 Agenda, we will have basically saved our species on this planet,” Thomson said. “If not, who knows if we will see out this century.”

He said they have also had a resolution passed to mandate a global conference to be held in Fiji in 2017. It will drive the implementation of STD14, which is a goal for oceans, which covers everything from dying coral reefs to ocean acidification.

“It’s our attempt to reverse the decline of the ocean’s health,” he said.

Thomson says that as countries go underwater, migration is inevitable. Fiji has already told islanders that they will have a home in Fiji.

“My big thing is migration with dignity,” he said.

He said more countries need to be prepared to help these people relocate and that it can be a positive thing for both cultures.

Charles Bollard, business management student, said he doesn’t have a specific stance on climate change, but found Thomson’s speech informative.

“I like hearing opinions from other countries, not just having a single-minded view,” Bollard said.