Oceania & Pacific
Tony de Brum (Minister-in-Assistance to the President, Republic of the Marshall Islands)

My country needs a precious gift from the world’s people – the vision to take bold, urgent action on climate change, and the will to follow it through.  Only concerted action can protect us from the rising seas and lack of fresh water that now threaten my nation’s very existence.

I am from the Republic of the Marshall Islands, a string of 34 low-lying coral atolls, comprising over 1,000 islands and islets scattered over one million square miles of the Pacific Ocean.

Climate change is not a distant prospect, but a reality for us now.  People are starting to ask:  What is happening to our country?  What will my children do?  Not our grandchildren or great-grandchildren, but our children, who are already on the frontline.

In other countries, you can talk about climate change as something intangible whose  impacts will arrive in 50 years.  But if the world does not tackle climate change now, then my people will be displaced.  We will become strangers in a foreign land, having lost our national identity, our traditions and our very collective being.

This is today’s reality in the Marshall Islands: we lie an average of only 2 metres above a sea level that is rising much more quickly than previously thought.  The most recent US National Climate Assessment says that sea levels in our immediate neighbourhood will rise by 2 metres before 2100.

Today, climate change has left our capital Majuro with only two hours’ worth of fresh water every second day, and many of our outer islands with none at all.

We recently declared a State of Emergency to protect lives and communities against this imminent danger.  As I write, ships are traveling to these far-flung communities to deliver fresh water and desalination machines.  Of all the ironies, these water-makers are powered by climate-warming diesel.

For the complete article, please see Climate & Development Knowledge Network.

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