GENEVA — The main U.N. body dealing with trade, investment and development issues began a weeklong forum on Monday examining ways to solve the climate crisis, particularly sea level rise and other risks to small island nations.
“I speak to you as a prime minister and as a human. I’m here to tell you that the small island developing states need your help,” Saint Lucia’s prime minister, Allen Chastanet, told the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s forum.
UNCTAD said its forum is meant to help boost the chances for success at the 2019 Climate Action Summit that U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres will host on September 23 on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly’s annual high-level meetings in New York.
Guterres aims to boost national ambitions and accelerate global actions that fulfill the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
“The recurrent climate related catastrophes in the Caribbean are a warning that climate action is an urgent imperative. The trade community must lead by example,” said Mukhisa Kituyi, UNCTAD’s secretary-general.
The forum in Geneva is focused on “the need for action on the means of implementation — finance, technology and capacity building,” the agency said, adding it is also examining “the role of trade as an enabling factor in meeting this need and leveraging the various co-benefits — economic diversification, jobs, innovation, better management and communications.”
The climate is changing. So must trade.
How we produce, transport and consume products is a major cause of the climate crisis.
— UNCTAD (@UNCTAD) September 9, 2019
Commodities, climate and small islands
UNCTAD will launch a new report later this week showing how the global commodities trade affects the Paris climate deal, which sets out how nations must report their carbon emissions and pay for climate action.
Last December, almost 200 nations agreed to adopt a complex and lengthy rulebook for accomplishing the Paris deal’s goal of preventing average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, or 1.5 degrees C. if possible.
“Data shows that commodity dependence hits developing countries hardest and increases their vulnerability to external shocks like climate change,” UNCTAD said.
Among those most affected by climate impacts such as rising sea levels and more extreme weather is a group of nations that signed onto the Paris deal and is collectively known as the Small Island Development States, or SIDS.
“Inaction is becoming a luxury,” said David Vivas, a legal officer at UNCTAD who specializes in trade, environment and climate issues. “SIDS must take a common front for urgent mitigation policies, sustainable trade and resilient development.”
Because of that, UNCTAD said, its focus at the forum will be to help those small islands and coastal communities.
In the past week, for example, Hurricane Dorian remained lodged in the upper atmosphere as it battered Grand Bahama Island for a day and a half. Scientists say storms are slowing and stalling more often in the atmosphere, allowing them to wreak havoc, due to global warming.
“Sea-level rise, an increased frequency and magnitude of storms, flooding, erosion, and associated damage to coastal infrastructure, fisheries and ecosystems threaten the physical, economic and social fabric of coastal regions,” UNCTAD said.
“SIDS and coastal communities may not be able to change the political course of efforts to mitigate climate change,” it said, “but what the international community does or does not do will determine their fate.”