Vulnerable island states

THE survival of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) would depend on convincing larger nations to cut their carbon emissions, says World Health Organization Climate and Other Determinants of Health assistant director general, Dr Joy Saint John.

While speaking at the opening of the two-day Meeting to Develop the Pacific Action Plan for the WHO Special Initiative on Climate Change and Health in Small Island States, she said larger nations should no longer ignore the voice of smaller developing nations.

She said the meeting of WHO representatives alongside stakeholders and Pacific health officials was an important step towards finding a collective voice that could address larger nations.

“The initiative will concentrate on protecting health that is currently at risk here in the islands,” she said.

“However, we should not forget that ultimately the survival of these nations will depend on convincing the rest of the world to cut their carbon emissions.

“Some of the best arguments to this are health arguments.

“Dirty energy sources don’t just drive climate change, they kill billions around the world through their pollution.

“We need to make that argument to the world’s largest countries as well.”

She said action had to be taken by Small Island Developing States to provide necessary information for global bodies such as the WHO.

“Firstly, we need to ensure that the voice of health from island nations contributed fully at national health levels and is no longer ignored by larger nations.

“Secondly, we need to ensure that we have the best possible evidence so that we can be clear that health is the best possible investment of climate and national resources.”

Minister for Health Rosy Akbar said she hoped the two-day discussions would lead to a collective agreement that health was an important sector in climate change talks.

“In Fiji, we are still recovering from the biggest cyclone ever to make landfall in Tropical Cyclone Winston,” she said.