On Thursday, September 26th, Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) Senator Tony de Brum, the Minister in Assistance to the President (equivalent to a Vice President), joined Professor Paolo Galizzi’s International Environmental Law class to talk about climate change in the Pacific and their recent work to spur greater commitments in the international climate change negotiations.
Senator de Brum spoke about the Majuro Declaration on Climate Leadership, the result of an early September summit of Pacific leaders in the RMI capital. “We are not just trying to save our islands,” said Senator de Brum, “we are trying to save the entire world. If the Pacific islands disappear, then it will already be too late for everyone else.” The islands, along with Australia and New Zealand, pledged to make greater emissions reductions and expand the use of renewable energy—the Cook Islands, Niue, Tuvalu and Vanuatu will be using 100 percent renewable energy by 2020.
De Brum also talked about the climate diplomacy around the Majuro Declaration, which was presented to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon by RMI President Christopher Loeak as a complement to Moon’s efforts to build political will for accelerating climate action. The islands also met with and convinced US Secretary of State John Kerry to sign the Declaration and commit to greater, although at this point still unspecified, climate action.
The Marshall Islands, a small chain of islands in the southern Pacific, is keenly aware of the impacts of a changing climate. In the past few months, Majuro has been hit by a ‘king tide’ that crashed over a protective seawall and flooded its airport runway, while in the northern atolls there was a severe drought.