COP23 to draw attention to vulnerable small islands states

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BY ELLISON VAHI

THE impacts of climate change are already being felt on a global scale, especially on small islands scattered around the oceans.

These vulnerable island nations are planning to make their voices heard at COP23 in Bonn.

With Fiji set to chair the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) in Bonn, Germany later this year, attention is turning to the plight of small island nations and the need to develop sustainable solutions to rising sea levels and extreme weather events.

Local Governments for Sustainability ICLEI – formerly known as International Council for Local Environmental Issues, is an organization comprised of local governments who have made a commitment to sustainable development. It aims to share knowledge and provide training at a local level, particularly with towns and provinces in small island states.

One of its current projects focuses on developing successful resilience practices on the Solomon Islands, which is already experiencing the effects of sea level rise which Over the last few decades, the country has already lost five small islands to rising waters.

According to statement from Andrew Mua, mayor of the Honiara City Council, with Steve Gawler, the regional director of ICLEI Oceania, during the 2017 Resilient Cities Conference in Bonn about some of the challenges facing the Solomon Islands and how it plans to tackle the issue stated that the Sea level rise is a very big concern for island nations including the Solomon Islands.

“We are slowly losing our beaches and small islands are already sinking underwater and hence are very thankful to ICLEI and other organisations who are helping us to address this issue and prepare our people for the worst to come.”

Speaking of how the ICLEI cooperates with the Solomon Islands in order to implement climate change adaptation strategies Steve Gawler said that coming last year in 2017, his group with the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction to conduct a disaster risk self-assessment has come with funds to help them work out how they can deal with disaster, like the flash floods in 2014 as well what lessons were learned and what needs to be put in place so that the city can respond more effectively to another disaster with less loss of life and less damage.

“Interestingly, one of the local partners working with the UN Habitat Cities and Climate Change Initiative (CCCI) was a university based in Melbourne. So the funding came from the UN to local partners for the benefit of Honiara, and we’re still working together on various projects. It’s an example of good international coordination, which doesn’t always happen,” said Steve.

Steve adds that the ICLEI is different from other agencies in the sense that they talk with the local authorities about the issue first and then help bring in those external agencies to start implementing solutions.

He also said that Small islands need to be treated with great respect because they have incredible strengths, such as connected communities, which are the envy of Western developed countries as well they have identified that one of the main strengths of Honiara is the community structure that It’s so strong that ICLEI was actually approached around the past years ago by the Alliance of Small Island States because they represent one party in the climate talks, but their voices are small.

Steve further stressed that the Part of the reason they are working is to see how they can use their global networks to help raise small islands state voices more effectively, so to develop a strategy to go to COP 23 specifically to draw attention to towns and cities on small islands and say to the international community: “You’re forgetting about them”.

“All of the new climate change adaptation frameworks you have developed are not tackling the problems in Honiara, in Suva, in Port of Spain, and many others,” he said.

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