Leaders of the smaller Pacific Island nations most vulnerable to rising oceans are calling for a "global moratorium on all new coal mines"—in a bid to combat the climate crisis and protect the most basic survival of their land, people, and cultures.
The statement was issued by the Alliance of Small Island States on Monday from the Pacific Islands Forum leaders summit in Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, taking place this week.
The declaration took aim at the United Nations Conference of the Parties 21 (COP21) climate talks, slated to take place in November and December in Paris, which the leaders called "our last chance to reach an outcome that must reverse the global warming pathway."
The leaders of the smaller islands, which include countries such as Tuvalu and Palau, noted that the effects of human-made global warming are already on their doorsteps: "We are already suffering the impacts of climate change and call upon the international community to respond with a concerted and ambitious approach to address the greatest threat to humanity."
The open missive urged the COP21 nations to "deliver a legally binding agreement" that will keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels; address all sources of greenhouse gas emissions; and "ensure that human rights to exist as a people are protected."
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The leaders ultimately demand a halt to construction of new coal mines, declaring: "We cannot afford to lock in any further fossil fuel emissions."
Their call follows a landmark study published by University College London researchers earlier this year which concluded that, in order to stave off climate disaster, the vast majority of fossil fuel deposits across the globe must remain untapped.
"We, Leaders of the Pacific Smaller Island States are committed to a sustainable and resilient future," Monday's statement urged. "We call on all others to follow and to leave no one behind."
Tuvalu prime minister Enele Sopoaga, who is now the chair of the Alliance, declared: "We're simply seeking for the rights of small island states to survive."
Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, released a statement Tuesday urging the rest of the world to take heed: "We’re already seeing Pacific communities lose their land and their homes resulting from extreme weather events and the impacts of climate change. This is a growing humanitarian crisis that will only undermine regional stability and security if it is not adequately dealt with."