Small islands states challenge UN on climate change threat

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Small island nations that say climate change threatens their very existence are asking the U.N. Security Council to do more to address the issue as a matter of international peace and security, especially with a critical climate summit in Paris coming late this year.

At a meeting Thursday on the challenges facing small island states, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and others asked that the council put climate change on its formal agenda for regular discussion, with Kiribati calling it “the biggest security threat facing mankind.”

One-fifth of the U.N.'s 193 member countries are classified as small island developing states, and many have expressed alarm at the prospect of rising sea levels amid global warming.

Tuvalu said it has lost four of its small islands to the sea since 2000, two of them this year during deadly Cyclone Pam.

“That’s how fast our islands could disappear, in just the blink of an eye,” Sunema Pie Simati, the charge d’affaires for Tuvalu’s U.N. mission, told the council. “We cannot continue along this current path.”

She recalled the extraordinary global mobilization last year for the Ebola epidemic and said climate change needs that same urgency now.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft noted that Kiribati is already buying land in Fiji, which Kiribati President Anote Tong has called a guarantee in case the entire nation needs to move.

The world’s oceans have risen nearly 7 centimeters (nearly 3 inches) since 1992 and are projected to rise more quickly in the coming decades, scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have said.

This month, the U.N. climate chief said the December summit in Paris is the last chance to broker a legally binding climate deal to keep global warming from reaching dangerous levels.

Current council president New Zealand hosted Thursday’s meeting to fulfill a campaign promise it had made while seeking a seat on the 15-member council.