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Island nations plead for huge carbon cuts

SMALL island states have sharpened their calls for the rich to make deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, saying low-lying atolls risk being washed off the map by rising ocean levels.

An alliance of 43 island states, backed by more than a dozen nations in Africa and Latin America, urged developed countries at United Nations climate talks in Bonn on Thursday to cut greenhouse emissions by "at least 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2020."

"The scientific findings about climate change are frightening," M.J. Mace, a legal adviser to the Federated States of Micronesia who presented the demands at the March 29-April 8 meeting, told reporters.

A group of leading researchers last month projected a quickening pace of sea level rise this century, of about a meter or roughly double the projections by the UN Climate Panel in 2007.

At a UN climate meeting in Poznan, Poland, in December 2008, the small islands called for cuts of "more than 40 percent" in industrialized nations' emissions by 2020.

"Why would small island states be happy with a level of ambition that is going to destroy their countries?" Mace said. The highest points of some Pacific, Caribbean or Indian Ocean states are only a few meters above sea level.

Many other nations, including China and India, have called at Bonn for at least 40 percent cuts by the rich. Small islands range from Antigua to Vanuatu while other countries backing Thursday's call included Kenya, Tanzania, Argentina and Peru.

The cuts are far beyond goals set by developed nations, in a widening stand-off about how to split up the burden of fighting global warming amid a global economic slowdown under a new UN pact meant to be agreed at a meeting in Copenhagen in December.

United States President Barack Obama plans to cut US emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020, a cut of between 16 and 17 percent from current levels. The European Union has agreed cuts of 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and of 30 percent if other developed nations follow suit.

The UN Climate Panel has said developed nations would have to cut emissions by between 25 and 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 to avoid the worst of climate change such as catastrophic floods, droughts, melting glaciers and heat waves.


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