Pacific island states pushed aside in race for UN funds: Kiribati

ULAN BATOR Wed Mar 12, 2014 4:15am EDT

Binata Pinata stands on top of a rock underneath an old tower as she waits for her husband Kaibakia to hand her the fish he is catching, on Bikeman islet, located off South Tarawa in the central Pacific island nation of Kiribati May 25, 2013. REUTERS/David Gray

Binata Pinata stands on top of a rock underneath an old tower as she waits for her husband Kaibakia to hand her the fish he is catching, on Bikeman islet, located off South Tarawa in the central Pacific island nation of Kiribati May 25, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/David Gray

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ULAN BATOR (Reuters) - Tiny Pacific island nations, among those hardest hit by climate change, are being outmuscled by larger states in the race to get U.N. funds earmarked for climate change adaptation, Kiribati's agriculture minister said on Wednesday.

At a meeting in the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator where land-locked developing countries and small island states debated how to ensure future food security amid hotter weather and rising sea-levels, Elisala Pita slammed the U.N.'s funding mechanisms.

"They promise a lot of funding, but the criteria to access them are so complicated, and we lack the capacity," he told Reuters.

The low-lying South Pacific island nation of Kiribati has an average height of 2 m. (6-1/2 feet) above sea level, making it one of the countries most vulnerable to rising waters and other climate change effects.

Pita said some regional organizations with the expertise to assist in attaining funds prioritize "big staff with big salaries", meaning some funds never reached where they were meant to.

Most Pacific island states get funds from richer nations or multilateral development banks to deal with impacts from climate change, such as coastal erosion and salinisation.

But assistance from earmarked funds such as the U.N. Kyoto Protocol Adaptation Fund was not forthcoming, Pita said.

"We can talk all day about climate impacts, but what can we do without financial support?" he asked.

The meeting took place as delegates from nearly 200 nations met in Bonn to discuss a new international treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions, which scientists say cause global warming, and secure funding for adversely impacted poor countries.

They hope to agree a pact in Paris in December 2015, but the Bonn meeting has been bogged down in squabbling over procedural issues, blocking progress.

Kiribati, part of former British colony the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, comprises 32 atolls and a coral island, straddling the Equator halfway between Australia and Hawaii and spread over 3.5 million sq km (2 million sq miles) of ocean.

It has bought land in Fiji to grow food and build a potential resettlement site for people displaced by rising seas. It is trying to give its people skills to become more attractive as immigrants, an approach it calls "migration with dignity".

(Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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