As UN climate change talks drew to a close in the oil-rich Gulf nation of Qatar Saturday, there was little hope that small island communities in the Pacific Ocean, threatened with rising seas and savage storms, would get a reprieve with “money on the table” to help them cope.
The phrase “money on the table” was used by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the world's least developed countries to show that they would not agree to any deal that didn't include more money in UN climate funds to help the world's most vulnerable countries.
In the end, however, as the talks ran more than 24 hours past the Friday deadline, there was no additional money pledged and yet a deal was inked.
The Doha talks were not expected to produce anything of real substance, but it was hoped by many that at least promises of increased financing for poor countries to adapt to climate change would be part of the final package.
The result was a continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, the world's only legally binding treaty to fight climate change but one that covers only 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and pledges to meet again in coming years to produce a new treaty by 2015.
A report by the UN Environment Programme released during the annual two-week conference said that small island nations ranging from Barbados to Mauritius to Tuvalu face unprecedented challenges to their economies and environment from the impacts of climate change.
The report further says that sea level rise, tropical cyclones, floods and drought, combined with pressures from unsustainable fishing practices and coastal development and consumption and production trends, are rendering the livelihoods of some 10 million people increasingly vulnerable.
Ambassador Marlene Moses, who chairs the Alliance of Small Island States, says that failure on the part of big polluters to reduce their emissions and help vulnerable countries adapt to the impacts of a warming planet was tantamount to denying justice to the most vulnerable in the global society.
Her counterpart Pa Ousman Jarju who chairs the Least Developed Countries group says in the final days of the conference that he was still hopeful that something substantive would come out of Doha. He however said he would not preemptively comment on the possible failure of negotiations.
The UNEP report recommended actions to enforce legislation, improve the availability of environmental data, and strengthen environmental institutions to help meet the major climate change challenges facing the Pacific region.
The study highlights successful efforts to create community-managed conservation areas, such as marine parks, which have used indigenous knowledge to improve recycling, energy efficiency and sustainable water use.
The report says such techniques can be scaled up and serve as a model for other regions.