Despite their comparatively insignificant contribution to
climate change, Small Island Developing States ("SIDS")
are among the most vulnerable nations to the effects of
climate change. Rising sea levels, an increase in extreme weather
events, desertification, warming marine habits, and other effects
have made climate change an enormous threat for many of these tiny
states. Although disproportionately impacted, SIDS are in many ways
helpless to prevent climate change from happening and do not have
the resources to adequately mitigate its effects.
This has made these nations among the most vocal proponents of
international solutions for climate mitigation and adaptation that
recognize this imbalance.
Recently, leaders from 14 SIDS have signaled their intention to
develop the world's first international treaty aimed
at phasing out fossil fuels. The proposed treaty would
introduce binding targets for renewable energy, ban the expansion
of coal mines or other fossil fuel mines, and would prohibit states
from providing subsidies for fossil fuel consumption or extraction.
It would also incorporate the 1.5C aspirational target from the Paris Agreement, which was signed by 195
countries in December 2015.
The proposed treaty, should it eventually be written, signed,
and ratified, would have very little direct impact on CO2
emissions, particularly given that a comparatively infinitesimal
share of global emissions emanates from SIDS and little fossil fuel
extraction occurs within their territories. However, it would
likely have huge symbolic value, perhaps providing inspiration for
further multilateral efforts and bolstering the Paris
Agreement's "aspirational" goal of keeping
temperature increases capped at 1.5C. It would also likely provide
further impetus for SIDS, many of whom are almost entirely dependent upon imported fossil
fuels to meet their energy needs, to transition to sustainable
energy sources and become more energy secure.
SIDS have long been global leaders on climate change and have
undertaken tireless efforts to alert more developed
states—who are more directly responsible for CO2
emissions—to their plight. Perhaps most memorably, in 2009
the then-president of the Maldives held a cabinet meeting underwater in an attempt to
underscore the threat to his nation's existence posed by
climate change and to encourage leaders at the then-upcoming UN
climate conference in Copenhagen to come up with an effective
international agreement to combat climate change.
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