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By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (July 14, 1999 – Marshall Islands Journal)---Small island nations opened a climate change meeting in Majuro Wednesday, with Marshall Islands President Imata Kabua saying nations of the world must "not be side-tracked" by the cost necessary to "save the planet from destructive and irreversible climate change."

The Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS) has brought about 50 representatives from around the globe to the atoll nation of the Marshall Islands for three days of meetings on how to get action on the so-called "Kyoto Protocols," which set out guidelines for clean development and worldwide pollution reduction.

Samoa’s Ambassador to the United Nation and AOSIS chairman, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, told the workshop that AOSIS needs to seek ways to engage the large developing nations, such as India and China, as well as the industrialized nations in the effort to reverse advancing climate changes.

Saying that the Marshall Islands has already experienced "extreme weather events like storm surges," President Kabua said that the small islands "cannot remain silent against the danger of climate change."

Kabua said that cooperation among nations is essential, adding that aside from relying on AOSIS for help, "we also count on the cooperation of our friends in the industrialized countries to take the necessary actions as required by the principles of the Climate Change Convention."

Kabua directed his comments to the industrialized nations. "Although economic growth and high standards of living are being enjoyed by some, others are having their livelihoods and dignity endangered," he said.

If no action is taken, the destruction of small islands and low lying coastal areas will follow, he said.

Nations of the world need to "act firmly and decisively on the question of climate change," he said. "Let us not be sidetracked by discussions on how costly the necessary measures will be. But let it be said, that if we are to talk about costs, can we really afford the loss of land and cultures, can we really afford to make this planet uninhabitable?"

In an early session of the workshop, Slade said that it was essential to address not only the industrialized nations. "We must engage China, India, Brazil and others," he said.

Observing that "AOSIS is not OPEC," Slade said that the organization needed to be clear and assertive in the climate change debate, and needed "balance" in dealing with both industrialized and non-industrialized countries.

This workshop, he said, was "reaching out to the international community to share its concerns" about climate change and what can be done to reverse it.

Officials from most Pacific nations, and islands in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Mediterranean are attending the three-day session in Majuro, along with scientists from the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

The Marshall Islands Journal, Box 14, Majuro, Marshall Islands 96960 E-mail: Subscriptions (weekly): 1 year US $87.00; international $213.00 (air mail).

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