The world's Small Island States gathered in the Maldives on Tuesday to highlight the plight of the world's most vulnerable communities to climate change and coordinate their positions before a key UN meeting scheduled for December.
The Foreign Ministry of the Maldives said in a statement that the conference will attempt to broaden the traditional climate change debate by focusing on the human dimension of this fundamental threat to planet, people and prosperity, according to website of the ministry.
Delegates from 23 island nations will examine how global warming is affecting the lives of individual people around the world, and to agree on whether climate change fundamentally compromises individual rights and liberties.
The meeting, with the theme of "Human Dimension of Global Climate Change", will also explore ways for Small Island States to collaborate in the preparation of a new global agreement to replace the Kyoto Treaty.
Addressing the opening ceremony in the Maldivian capital of Male, Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom said that environmental protection, preservation and security are part of an individual's basic human rights.
Gayoom called for a comprehensive international treaty to guarantee this fundamental human right to millions of people across the world.
He told the gathering of representatives of member countries of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and international environmental organizations that people should be "at the heart of climate change diplomacy."
The president urged the delegates to develop a common platform for next month's important Bali (Indonesia) conference.
He said for the Maldives and other member countries of AOSIS, environmental security was today an issue of life and death.
"We are under no illusion that time is running out for us to ensure the survival of our future generations. It is our responsibility to ensure that they are not deprived of the opportunity to grow up and to live in a safe and protected environment," the president said.
"The future we seek to build is not a zero-sum game where one lifestyle is sacrificed to save another," said Gayoom, adding that measures to counter climate change will power sustainable development, create new and better jobs and raise living standards across the world.
At the end of the two-day conference, Small Island States are expected to adopt a "Declaration on the Human Dimension of Climate Change."
The document will be accompanied by a resolution that will "operationalize" the declaration by setting out the negotiating position of Small Island States ahead of the Bali Process.
The 13th United Nations Climate Change Conference is expected to be held in Bali from Dec. 3 to 14 to formulate a roadmap for a future climate change deal.