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AOSIS: “1.5 to Stay Alive”

The 42-member Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) is calling for a 1.5°C limit to temperature increases. Speaking at a seminar in New York to prepare vulnerable country negotiators for upcoming talks in the lead-up to the crucial UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen this December, Ambassador Dessima Williams, Permanent Representative of Grenada and Chair of AOSIS, touted “1.5 to stay alive” as the mantra guiding the AOSIS approach to the negotiations.

Limiting warming to below 1.5 °C would require that concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere be limited to below 350 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide-equivalent. This is well below the 2 °C and 450 ppm targets promoted by many industrialized countries. Current pledges for emissions reductions put forward by these countries risk temperature increases in excess of 3 °C.

The IPCC’s estimates are now two years old. More recent science shows that we are on track for sea-level rise of at least one and maybe two meters by the end of the century. That would spell disaster, even disappearance, for some of our islands. If the science is moving, so too must world leaders.

—Ambassador Williams

AOSIS was joined earlier this year by the Group of Least Developed Countries (LDCs)—a total of some 80 countries—in demanding that global temperature increases be kept as far below 1.5 °C as possible to limit the anticipated devastating effects of climate change on the world’s most vulnerable countries.

Serious adverse impacts are already being felt by island states at the current 0.8 °C of warming, including coastal erosion, flooding, coral bleaching and more frequent and intense extreme weather events. The U.N.’s lead agency on refugees has already warned that some particularly low-lying island states are “very likely to become entirely uninhabitable”.

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