Island states have complained that the issue of global warming was not given sufficient attention at the just-concluded Commonwealth summit in Uganda, saying their low-lying nations were the most vulnerable to the consequences of climate change, particularly rising sea levels.
"Global warming is close to our hearts," said Seychelles Foreign Minister, Noellin Alexander. "We [island states] are the majority members of the Commonwealth, but we are the most vulnerable to global warming as it threatens our very survival. It was, however, given little attention at the meeting," he said.
Mohamed Asim, a delegate from the Maldives, said his country was severely threatened by rising sea levels. "Our islands are lowlands and any continued rising sea level will have dire consequences for our country. We [should] rather work together to stop this threat," he said.
Many delegates from small island states wanted the Commonwealth summit, held in the Ugandan capital on 23-24 November, to end with binding commitments by members to tackle the effects of global warming, ahead of the international conference on climate change in Bali, Indonesia, in December.
"We are not after announcements and statements, but concrete and practical programmes to change the situation as far as global warming is concerned," said Zainul Abidin Rasheed, Singapore's senior minister of state for foreign affairs.
Under the UN Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012, parties are obliged to reduce the emission of harmful gases - mainly carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, blamed for a rise in global warming - by about 5 percent of 1990 emission levels.
The Commonwealth summit came up with a Climate Change Action Plan aimed at helping achieve a comprehensive post-2012 global greenhouse emissions agreement.
"We are conscious that climate change is a direct threat to the very survival of some Commonwealth countries, notably small island states. We are also conscious of the threat to low-lying coastal regions. Climate change can undermine our continuing efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. We recognise that the cost of inaction on mitigation and adaptation is far greater than the cost of early action," the plan document stated.
It also noted that actions to stem climate change should not deprive developing countries of the possibility of sustainable economic development.
"On the contrary, measures to tackle the impacts of climate change should support the positive economic and social transformation of societies. In particular, the easing of population pressure on agricultural land and the successful development of secondary and tertiary sectors in economies requires the provision of clean energy."
The outgoing Commonwealth Secretary-General, Don McKinnon, described the declaration on climate change as "quite a leap forward".Source: All Africa