Marshall Islands

Majuro hosting major climate change talks

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Just three weeks ago Marshall Islands was hit by its worst king tides in more than 30 years, the capital Majuro was flooded for the third time in the last 12 months. .

Audio: Majuro hosting major climate change talks (Credit: ABC)

Not ideal preparation, but perhaps more than appropriate as the country prepares to host the latest meeting of the Cartagena Dialogue for Progressive Action.

Bringing together ambassadors and climate specialists from developed and developing countries, the group was formed after the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009, with a mission to accelerate a push towards a new international treaty on reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Marshall Islands newly appointed Foreign Minister, Tony de Brum, who has retained responsibility for climate issues, says when talks start tomorrow, a state of emergency will still be in place in his country.

Presenter: Richard Ewart

Speaker: Tony de Brum, Foreign Minister, Marshall Island

DE BRUM: I believe so, unless the Chief Secretary otherwise advises that things are well in hand. We still have the Northern Marshalls cloud effort underway, with this king tide occurring in the south. So I believe it will still be in place, because it's necessary for us to tap emergency funds and to be able to move shipping around, rearrange our shipping schedules to meet the emergency requirements. We're making good progress in preparing for the Cartagena Dialogue and expect to have robust discussions on climate change and also refocus on our own Pacific efforts to combat the impacts of climate change. It's a good opportunity just ahead of the UN Secretary-General's Climate Summit in September, because it brings in really the largest gathering of international community in the islands since the Forum.

EWART: I suppose if anything were needed and I doubt that it was to concentrate the minds of the delegates who will be in Marshall Islands and the fact that you are still dealing with the aftermath of one of the impacts of climate change will really add emphasis to the discussion and the need for you and the other Pacific Islands to reach agreement, to then push at the larger forums to come?

DE BRUM: Absolutely, the preparations for the next Forum in Palau, for example, the fact that we have just completed the Forum here in Majuro, with the Majuro Declaration. I think all of that sort of fits in with having the Cartagena Dialogue here. It's a good opportunity to renew commitment to climate change efforts, to also welcome new challenges and new opportunities to visa-v our friends down in Australia and Japan, for example. who have in our view back pedalled a little bit on their climate change commitments.

EWART: Are there particular objectives for the dialogue, particular points that you're hoping to reach agreement on or is this really building on what's been discussed in the past at previous gatherings?

DE BRUM: I think it will be, as you say, a building on past discussions, but it will also be, because of the timing, I think accord numbers and gives an opportunity to have same ideas and also to see for themselves that all that we've have been talking in the United Nations for the past decades have been predictions for the future, when in fact, what we have now is current and immediate impacts of climate change that are already reaching and impacting the small island communities of the Pacific and other places.

EWART: Do you get the impression the kind of messages that are emanating from Marshall Islands and indeed other members who will be at the Dialogue next week are being listened to more intently now, certainly here in Australia, but also elsewhere in the world. The G20 agenda, for example, which will be held, of course, in Australia later in the year I gather will take a look at climate change, when that wasn't guaranteed really was it, when it was decided to bring the meeting here?

DE BRUM: Absolutely, given the opportunity and the location and the fact that we are all leading up to some pretty heavy conclusions to be reached in the next year. I think that it would have been a terrible mistake to leave climate change out of the G20 meeting in Australia.

We're hopeful that better judgement will prevail and that the countries will have a good opportunity to bring themselves up to date, as well as to share ideas of how we move forward.

EWART: The latest evidence produced in the report from the World Metrological Office all points to continued impact of climate change. Australia, for example, has had it's hottest year on record. Globally, temperatures rose significantly. What does that mean in terms of moving towards what you and the other Pacific nations want, which is a new global treaty on greenhouse gas emissions?

DE BRUM: That's what we're pushing for, because we cannot sit around and say, well, let's see what happens five years from now and ten years from now. Commitment period is now, between 2015-2020, and the final push, the final layout of the problem should be done in the next few months, so yes, it is a critical time for us and for the rest of the world as well, to say OK, we are no longer going to consider this a matter of theory, a matter of predictions, but this is a matter of current problems, so that we can begin to get really binding commitments from our world partners as well as from ourselves. We also are trying to do our best, even though we do not generate carbon as much as the other countries. We have, for example, in the Marshalls, done our best to solarise the energy needed for the outer islands, and other island government facilities as well and we're continuing to help our neighbours to do their best within their own powers, whatever they can.

In the forthcoming months, will be some of the most important meetings, like the G20, like the Cartagena Dialogue, the Palau Forum, the Secretary-General's call ?? then the UNGA itself. I think all of these should be focused entirely on the issue of climate change, so that we can come away with some solid ideas of how we move forward, other than keep talking theory or predictions, or what people are claiming maybe the source or may not be source of this problem. Leave that aside, let's work on what we have now. The science is in, the evidence is clear. Let's move forward.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation