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By Jennifer Sieg

UNITED NATIONS – (April 26, 2001 - Asia Times Online)---The 37-member Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) has called for strong and credible action to tackle the international threat of climate change.

"We are least responsible for, but most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and so we find ourselves at the forefront in the fight against global warming," says AOSIS chairman Ambassador Tuiloma Neroni Slade of Samoa.

The Alliance says it is "profoundly concerned and disappointed" by the recent U.S. decision to reject the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which requires the global reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to prevent dangerous human interference with the earth's climate system.

"While all regions are likely to suffer, the scientific evidence has singled out small island communities as being the most vulnerable to climate change," it notes.

Ministers and delegates from half a dozen small island states - St. Lucia, Grenada, the Maldives, Jamaica, Kiribati and the Cook Islands - announced their commitments to renewable energy as a means to control greenhouse emissions that contribute to global warming.

The commitment was made at a ceremony on Friday commemorating Earth Day 2001. The United Nations celebrated Earth Day on Sunday.

The event was part of the ninth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, taking place at the United Nations from April 16-27. Energy and the atmosphere are key themes of the talks.

Countries at or just above sea level are among the most threatened by the effects of climate change.

In addition to rising sea levels and extreme weather conditions, damage to fishing stocks, salinization of agricultural land, and contamination of water supplies are all potentially devastating consequences of global warming.

A recent report issued by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) estimated that worldwide damage resulting from climate change could cost over US$300 billion, and some low-lying countries could see losses exceeding 10 percent of their Gross Domestic Product by 2050.

The Earth Day announcement comes on the heels of criticism of the United States' rejection of the Kyoto Protocol, in which industrialized nations agreed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels by 2012.

Earlier this week, the Group of 77, the 133-member coalition of developing nations - as well as some of the United States' closest allies - expressed concern that the world's largest producer of greenhouse gases had chosen to abandon the Kyoto agreement.

The United States accounts for approximately 25 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

"The Kyoto Protocol is central to global efforts to address human-induced climate change, but the lack of support from the United States, to whom we look for principled leadership in many respects, makes those steps very difficult for us," warned Tangata Vavia, Minister of Energy in the Cook Islands.

In the meantime, nations represented at the ceremony said they will continue to pursue the goals outlined in the Kyoto Protocol.

For additional reports from the Asia Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Asia Times Online: Oceania.

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