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Marshalls becomes first island nation to offer UN climate pledge

Island nation

Creative Commons: Kelly Rigg, 2013

The Marshall Islands has become the first small island nation to submit its carbon-cutting pledge ahead of the UN climate talks this December, committing to cut emissions by a third within a decade.

Made up of 24 island atolls, many of which sit less than a metre above sea level, the Marshall Islands has just 68,000 inhabitants and virtually no industry and has a minimal contribution to global climate change.

Yet sitting on the frontline of climate change it has – along with many other vulnerable states – risen in  prominence over the last year as one of the most progressive voices on climate change.

President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Christopher J. Loeak said:

We may be small, but we exemplify the new reality that going low carbon is in everyone’s interests. It improves our economy, our security, our health and our prosperity, particularly in the Pacific and more broadly in the developing world.

In a pledge to be filed with the UN this week, the country agreed to reduce its emission by 32% below 2010 levels by 2025, and set an indicative target to further cut emissions to 45% by 2030.

Particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, the Marshall Islands has one of the first developing countries to commit to lowering its emissions, rather than merely slowing the growth of CO2 output.

The target is in line with the country’s aim of moving towards net zero emissions by 2050, or earlier if possible.

Loeak added:

With these ambitious targets, we are on track to nearly halve out emissions between 2010 and 2030, en route to becoming emissions-free by the middle of the century. The science says this is what’s required globally. We have now joined the United States, the European Union, Ethiopia and others in setting a long-term decarbonisation strategy. When added together in Paris, these strategies will stamp fossil fuels with an expiry date.

The Marshall Islands has now joined a host of other countries, including Ethiopia, Serbia, Iceland and South Korea in submitting their climate change – officially know as their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs – to the UN ahead of the Paris conference this December.

With China, the US, the EU and Japan all having published their commitments, countries responsible for well over half of the world’s pollution have now put their plans on the table.

Together, these plans should move us closer to our agreed threshold of limiting global warming to well below 2C beyond which the climate could spin out of control, with countries expected to scale up their efforts and make up the difference in coming years.

This latest submission from the Marshall Island will help strengthen this call that countries must come back to the table by 2020 to see if stronger action is possible, particularly as renewable energy and other low-carbon technology becomes cheaper and more efficient.

The targets also reaffirms the country’s commitment to strong climate leadership in the Pacific region, as recognized by the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership adopted in the country when it hosted Pacific Island Leaders in September 2013.

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