Tropical islands to team up with rich cities on climate change

A huge globe at the site which will host the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn, Germany, on Oct 2, 2017. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

OSLO (REUTERS) - Cities in tropical island states led by Fiji plan to team up with cities from New York to Malmo in Sweden to tackle rising sea levels and other threats linked to climate change, according to a draft plan seen by Reuters.

The project, part of a plan to help towns and cities on islands, will be unveiled during a 200-nation meeting in Bonn, Germany, from Nov 6 to 17 on ways to bolster the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Steve Gawler, regional director for the Oceana region of ICLEI, an international association of local governments, said there were likely to be six to eight twinning deals announced in Bonn between rich cities and island cities.

New York, Bonn on the Rhine River and Malmo, at the mouth of the Baltic Sea in Sweden, are among rich cities that have signalled they want to work with cities in developing nations such as Fiji and the Solomon islands, he told Reuters.

"It's all about accelerated assistance to cities on small islands," he said.

Rich cities would share expertise on issues such as coastal barriers, clean energy and ways to curb pollution.

Fiji will be the president of the Bonn talks that aim to keep up action on climate change after US President Donald Trump, who doubts that global warming has a mainly human cause, said in June he would pull out of the Paris deal.

A draft of the island plan drawn up by ICLEI and the Global Island Partnership, seen by Reuters, says islands must work together to make their economies more resilient. Some island cities face problems of pollution and overcrowding.

A Fijian official said the plan was part of a long-term effort by island states, at risk from more powerful cyclones and a rise in sea levels as ice melts from Greenland to Antarctica. Sea levels have risen by 20 cm in the past century.

Linn Johansson, an official for the Malmo municipality, said "islands are on the front line of climate change" with a need to act now. "The same goes for cities such as Malmo".

Malmo aimed to take part in the project, she said, but details were still being worked out. Malmo is working to protect its canals and low-lying regions from future sea level rise and can also share experiences in cutting fossil fuel use.

Gawler said that New York's plans to bolster coastal defences after superstorm Sandy in 2012 would make it a valuable partner for a developing nation city. New York municipality did not reply to e-mailed questions about the plan.

Fiji's Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said in a speech in May that "cities in the developed world like Miami, New York, Venice or Rotterdam" are as vulnerable to rising seas as tropical islands.

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