Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Heavy Storm Damage to Small Island Nation Will Affect Paris Talks, Diplomats Say

A little boy named Samuel found his soccer ball in the ruins of his family home in Port Vila, Vanuatu, after Cyclone Pam destroyed 90 percent of the city's buildings. (Credit: Dave Hunt, courtesy of AP Images) Click to Enlarge.
The mounting death toll and devastation in Vanuatu since Cyclone Pam smashed the Pacific island nation this weekend have heightened calls for a global climate change compensation fund.

From the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, small island leaders said yesterday that the losses in Vanuatu -- with 24 confirmed dead and more than 3,300 people displaced, according to the United Nations -- hit home for them, as well.

They and others insist that providing a way to address the unavoidable economic losses suffered due to climate change, known in the lingo of international negotiations as "loss and damage," must be a central part of any new climate accord.  With governments preparing to craft a deal in Paris in December, they said, Cyclone Pam gives a tragic potency to their argument.

"This is a wake-up call.  How many more Vanuatus do we need?" said Ronald Jean Jumeau, the Seychelles' roving ambassador for climate change and small island developing state issues.

Recalling the many U.N. climate change meetings that happened to coincide with killer storms but ended with few tangible gains for vulnerable nations, Jumeau said, "It would be a shame on humanity if we didn't learn enough from what's happening in Vanuatu."

Ahmed Sareer, the Maldives' ambassador to the United Nations, said in a statement to ClimateWire:  "The Cyclone Pam tragedy graphically illustrates that while we are facing 21st Century storms, stronger and more destructive than ever before due to climate change, our infrastructure and disaster response systems are stuck in the 20th and some cases 19th Century.

"We urgently need to modernize our preparedness and part of that means looking at how Loss and Damage plays a role in addressing climate impacts," he said.

The Category 5 tropical cyclone brought with it winds of more than 150 mph and storm surges as high as 26 feet.  The most destructive storm to hit landfall since Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in 2013, Cyclone Pam caused damage on other islands, like Kiribati and the Solomon Islands, before it essentially flattened Vanuatu's capital city of Port Vila.

Read more at Heavy Storm Damage to Small Island Nation Will Affect Paris Talks, Diplomats Say

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