COPENHAGEN — Island nations threatened by rising seas demanded at UN talks Friday that the world commit to preventing global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit).
In an 18-page draft accord obtained by AFP, the 43-member Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) also called for an ambitious 85-percent cut in global CO2 emissions by 2050.
"AOSIS members are at the front line of the devastating impacts of climate change," Dessima Williams of Grenada, AOSIS' spokeswoman, said on Friday.
Both goals are well beyond the objectives embraced coming into the December 7-18 crunch summit by rich nations and emerging giants such as China, India and Brazil.
These countries have said that an objective of keeping temperatures from rising more than 2.0 C (3.6 F) compared to pre-industrial times is sufficient to stave off the worst impacts of global warming.
But new scientific findings since the 2007 UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) report that served as a basis for the 2.0 C target show that climate change is accelerating faster and is having more dire impacts than previously thought.
Partly as a result, a growing number of the world's most vulnerable countries have signed on to the AOSIS objectives, which were first aired at the UN climate talks in Poznan in December 2008.
"The Parties shall be guided by a shared vision to limit global average temperatures to well below 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels and to long-term stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to well below 350 parts per million (ppm)," the text says.
The concentration of gases plays a critical role in the level of warming that occurs.
The AOSIS proposal also called for a seven-year extension of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding treaty obliging rich countries to cut carbon pollution. Its current provisions expire at the end of 2012.
It also would provide for a second protocol, to be adopted under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to accommodate emissions reduction commitments form the United States, which never ratified Kyoto.
"Our proposal does forward amendments to secure a strengthened second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol and put forward a new Protocol to be adopted under the Convention which would result in legally binding targets for the USA", said ambassador Collin Beck of the Solomon Islands.
AOSIS has 43 members, 39 of which are parties to UNFCCC.
Small island nations are widely seen as most vulnerable to climate change, both because of rising sea levels and the devastating impact of ocean warming on coral reefs, the cornerstone of most island ecosystems.
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