Timor-Leste is one of the countries that will feel the worst impacts from climate change.
Timor-Leste is one of the countries that will feel the worst impacts from climate change.
1 December 2015

Twenty nations most endangered by climate change are expected to “bloc vote” at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris this week. 

University of Queensland marine ecologist Nicholas Wolff said the countries – known as the “Vulnerable 20” or V20 – had banded together to increase their voice in an effort to reduce the impacts of climate change on their communities.

UQ research shows the countries that will feel the most impact from climate change are not those with the highest carbon emissions. 

"The research is a reminder that we are global citizens and that our individual emissions will have far-reaching and often unfair impacts,” said Mr Wolff, from the School of Biological Sciences.

"It’s great to know these countries will vote together at COP21 in Paris, as it will greatly increase their impact and provide an opportunity for them to reduce their risks associated with climate change." 

The research, published in Global Change Biology, compared the projected impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on the world's coral reefs with the contribution each country made to the problem. 

It highlighted Australia and the US as large polluters, and found some of the greatest impacts of these countries’ emissions would be felt in smaller coastal countries, including Timor-Leste and Tuvalu. 

Report co-author Professor Peter Mumby said hundreds of millions of people who relied on coral reefs for food, livelihood and protection were affected by climate change.

“Previous research has found that heavily damaged reefs provide only one-third the number of fish that are found on healthy reefs,” said Professor Mumby, a marine biologist from UQ’s School of Biological Sciences. 

"Climate change will affect us all, however the Paris talks have the potential to influence how great that impact will be, particularly for the V20 countries.”

Professor Mumby and Mr Wolff said the research supported a case for the V20 group of countries to be given preferential access to resources from the Green Climate Fund, which 194 governments have established to support climate change adaptation and mitigation practices in developing countries. 

“Climate policy is fraught with concerns over inequity, but we hope our research findings will assist developing countries to get the best possible outcomes from COP21 and also influence the distribution of the Green Climate Fund in the future,” Professor Mumby said.

The V20's members are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Barbados, Bhutan, Costa Rica, East Timor, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Kiribati, Madagascar, the Maldives, Nepal, the Philippines, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Tanzania, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

Media:  Anna Moloney, Communications and Engagement Manager, Global Change Institute, UQ, (0) 478 487 211, a.moloney@uq.edu.au; Nicholas Wolff, UQ Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, +61 (0) 407 045 099, n.wolff1@uq.edu.au 

The emergence of a bloc of vulnerable countries calling for much stronger climate action may be a game-changer in international climate politics, UQ Associate Professor of International Relations Matt McDonald writes in The Conversation today.