Professor of global environmental politics Dr. Doreen Stabinsky.Professor of global environmental politics Dr. Doreen Stabinsky.

Small island states and environmentalists say the devastating cyclone that lashed Fiji on Saturday illustrates why the world must get serious about helping climate-vulnerable countries cope with warming.

Cyclone Winston was the most damaging storm ever to hit the small Pacific nation. The death toll was at 36 yesterday. Fiji’s representatives spent yesterday assessing the damage and securing aid.

Small island nations like Fiji advocated passionately for ambitious efforts to reduce emissions during talks that led to the landmark U.N. climate deal in Paris last December. Four days before it was hit by Winston, Fiji became the first country in the world to ratify the deal.

Doreen Stabinsky of the College of the Atlantic said developing countries got the short end of the stick in Paris.

“From my perspective, these countries paid a very high price to get some language on risk transfer and displacement—far less than what they had been demanding,” she said.

While the United States got what it wanted—an explicit exclusion of any liability language that put the issue to rest forever—poor countries only succeeded in ensuring that loss and damage would have a home under the convention, she said.

And the agreement’s language to create a task force to come up with recommendations to deal with displacement is “a far cry” from the coordination facility that climate-vulnerable countries seek, she said.

“The Paris outcome clearly showed who has the power to define the outcome of these sorts of agreements—it’s not the most vulnerable developing countries, no matter what moral weight they carry, or how many ‘biggest storm ever recorded’ events demolish their homes, and livelihoods, and lives,” she said.

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