/ 17 November 2009

Seychelles leader urges climate pact to boost food security

Global warming is ”inextricably linked” to food security, Seychelles President James Michel said, lamenting reports that no binding agreement is expected at the United Nations climate change talks in Copenhagen next month.

Speaking to Agence France-Presse on the sidelines of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Hunger Summit in Rome on Monday, Michel said: ”Coming up with ideas at the FAO summit without tackling climate change makes no sense.”

Without ”solutions to address the real cause of climate change and food insecurity, we will be increasing the number of people who are hungry,” Michel added at the headquarters of the FAO.

He said the prospect of no binding agreement being reached in Copenhagen was ”a bit shocking and in a way very irresponsible”.

”It is unfortunate, because for us especially, the small island developing states … we hope that at Copenhagen we’ll have a legal framework in which countries will have responsibilities and set targets to fight climate change and be able to save the earth.”

While world powers that bear the most responsibility ”for polluting our atmosphere keep haggling about [carbon] emissions levels … the earth continues to warm up, pollution continues to increase and the sea level continues to rise,” he said.

More than 190 nations are to meet for the UN talks in Copenhagen from December 7 to 18, aiming for a post-2012 accord to slash emissions from fossil fuels that trap solar heat and drive global warming.

But after nearly two years of haggling, deep rifts remain over apportioning emissions curbs between rich economies and fast-growing developing nations and on the accord’s architecture and legal status.

Michel told the Hunger Summit earlier on Monday: ”We cannot at this late hour accept that a few countries which are primarily responsible for polluting our atmosphere hold hostage the survival of our planet.”

He added: ”Some small low-lying islands are already facing the forced displacement of their inhabitants [which] violates our dignity.”

The Seychelles is a member of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), set up in 1990 to represent low-lying coastal and small island countries, notably in climate change negotiations.

Last week the president of the Maldives, the lowest country on earth, warned that the world was set to sign a ”global suicide pact” unless it reached a deal in Copenhagen.

”At the moment every country arrives at climate negotiations seeking to keep their own emissions as high as possible,” said President Mohamed Nasheed, who staged an underwater Cabinet meeting last month in a stunt aimed at highlighting the Maldives’ vulnerability to rising sea levels.

”This is the logic of the madhouse, a recipe for collective suicide. We don’t want a global suicide pact. We want a global survival pact,” he said.

Michel’s archipelago of 115 islands off the east African coast with a population of about 85 000, ”we have witnessed the negative effects of climate change over the last few years,” the Seychelles president said.

Describing the ”vicious circle” affecting the Seychelles, he said rising sea levels kill off coral, robbing fish of their habitat and causing tuna to migrate.

Tuna fisheries account for about 40% of the Seychelles’ economy, Michel said. — AFP