Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)

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Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)


The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) is a lobbying and negotiating group that aims to raise awareness about the consequences of climate change and to reduce carbon emissions so as to limit climate change. The small island states are recognized as being especially vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change. The extent of the concern and the potential harmful effects have resulted in the AOSIS being a powerful driving force in carbon emission reductions.

Historical Background and Scientific Foundations

The AOSIS formed in 1990. As of 2007, the alliance was made up of 39 states, of which 37 are members of the United Nations. The member states include islands in the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, and the South China Sea.

The goal of the AOSIS is to act as a lobbying group to raise awareness of issues impacting small island states and

to act as a negotiating voice. The main focus of AOSIS is on reducing carbon emissions.

Impacts and Issues

Small island states are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change. Sea-level rise is a major issue since many small island states have elevations of only 10-13 ft (3-4 m) above sea level.

Small island states are especially sensitive to climate change, and less likely than other larger nations to be able to adapt to change. Some of the specific threats noted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) include an increase in tropical cyclones; a reduction in tourism, which hurts the economy; reduced water resources; human health issues; and a decline in coastal industries.

The significance of climate change to small island states has made the AOSIS an important force in the climate change debate. Although the member states represent mainly small countries with limited political influence, their alliance into one larger group has given them greater power. Their influence is also increased due to the severity of the potential risks they face. They act as a voice for the worst-case scenarios of climate change, which can promote action on the part of other nations and push targets for reducing the impact of climate change to higher levels.


AOSIS PROTOCOL: The Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) is a federation of 39 of the world's small island states formed in 1990 to influence international policy on climate change. The AOSIS Protocol was a proposal submitted to the First Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 1995 that proposed that the developed nations reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions by 20% by 2005. Although its specific demands were not fulfilled, it led to the adoption of the Berlin Mandate in 1995, which in turn set the stage for the negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

INTERGOVERNMENTAL PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE (IPCC): Panel of scientists established by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in 1988 to assess the science, technology, and socioeconomic information needed to understand the risk of human-induced climate change.

KYOTO PROTOCOL: Extension in 1997 of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international treaty signed by almost all countries with the goal of mitigating climate change. The United States, as of early 2008, was the only industrialized country to have not signed the Kyoto Protocol, which is due to be replaced by an improved and updated agreement starting in 2012.

A major contribution by the AOSIS was what is now known as the AOSIS Protocol. This protocol sets the target of lowering the carbon emission levels by 20% to 1990 levels. This was originally presented at the 1995 First Conference of Parties in Berlin and was later adopted as part of the Kyoto Protocol.

See Also Coastal Populations; Kyoto Protocol; Small Islands: Climate Change Impacts; Sea Level Rise.



Gillespie, A., and W. C. G. Burns. Climate Change in the South Pacific: Impacts and Responses in Australia, New Zealand, and Small Island States. New York: Springer, 2000.

Web Sites

“The Alliance.” AOSIS: Alliance of Small Island States, 2007. <> (accessed October 25, 2007).

“Special Report on the Regional Impacts of Climate Change: An Assessment of Vulnerability.” IPCC: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. <> (accessed October 25, 2007).

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Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)

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Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)