globe.jpgA globe here in the Bella Center in Copenhagen left off several of the Pacific island nations through an "oversight." Unfortunately, the globe also provides a glimpse of how the South Pacific might look if we don't get a strong and legally binding deal here at the UN climate summit.Yesterday, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) released a proposal for a two-protocol, legally binding outcome for the Copenhagen climate summit. In their press release, the group described the proposal as “designed to safeguard the Earth’s climate system and to secure the future survival of its 43 members.”

That’s well and aptly put, but far too modest. The members of AOSIS are some of the least-developed nations on Earth, including places like the Maldives, Tuvalu, and Papua New Guinea – nations that had virtually no role in creating the climate crisis but will suffer the most if global warming goes unchecked. It’s certainly true that safeguarding the Earth’s climate is key to these nations’ survival – but it’s equally true that it’s key to the survival of each and every nation on this planet.

The need for a legally binding agreement, as opposed to a politically binding agreement (which has lately been much touted by the US and other rich countries hoping to stall on making real commitments to take climate action), is evident enough, I think. But let me explain the “two-protocol” bit, because I realize that’s a bit technical.

What the AOSIS proposal would do is essentially two things: amend the Kyoto Protocol to extend it until 2017 (it currently is set to expire in 2012) and set new emissions targets for all parties; and simultaneously create a new “Copenhagen Protocol,” a legally binding agreement that would “enhance implementation of the [United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)] in a balanced and comprehensive manner by addressing mitigation, adaptation, technology, financing and capacity-building support.”

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6 August 2009 - Greenpeace activists scaled the 50-meter high coal loader at Hay Point Coal Terminal in Mackay, Australia and locked themselves on to the structure to stop its operation. The action took place during the Pacific Islands Forum in Cairns, to demand the Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stop risking the future of Pacific Islands by undermining real action on climate change and expanding Australia’s coal industry. © Greenpeace / Hamilton

Perhaps the most important element of the Copenhagen Protocol proposed by AOSIS, however, is that it would bring the US – the country that has contributed the most to climate change and continues to have the highest per-capita carbon emissions levels in the world – into the legally binding agreement.

In other words, the AOSIS proposal lays out the real deal that the world needs. Climate chaos does not respect national borders and does not discriminate between rich and poor nations. It will affect us all. Establishing a fair, ambitious, and legally binding treaty here in Copenhagen is a matter of survival for us all.