Marshall Islands

Marshall Islands hit by King Tides as it prepares to host global climate meeting

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The Republic of the Marshall Islands was hit by devastating King Tides earlier this week as it prepares to host the next meeting of the Cartagena Dialogue for Progressive Action, a unique coalition of developed and developing countries working to secure an ambitious global climate treaty in 2015.

This week’s King Tides were the worst that the Marshall Islands has experienced in over 30 years, and the third time the capital Majuro has flooded in the last year alone. On Tuesday, the Government declared a State of Emergency and called for assistance to help it deal with the crisis. Several family homes were completely wiped out by the incoming waves, and nearly 1,000 people sought refuge in temporary relief shelters set up in local schools and churches.

RMI’s Foreign Minister, Phillip Muller, said the King Tides were the latest in a series of increasingly serious and regular climate impacts:

“While King Tides are not new to the Marshall Islands, their frequency and ferocity are clearly intensifying. For those of us in the Pacific, silly discussions about the scientific truth of climate change are futile. We see with our own eyes that the oceans are rising, and our tide gauges confirm it. We know there is only one explanation for this unprecedented phenomenon – climate change has arrived. Last month, US Secretary of State Kerry said climate change could be the world’s “most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” Here in the Marshall Islands, at an average of just six feet above sea level, we are at ground zero.”

The disaster comes just weeks before Majuro hosts the next meeting of the Cartagena Dialogue from 1 to 4 April, which will bring approximately 60 ambassadors and international climate experts to the low-lying atoll nation. The Dialogue was established in the wake of the 2009 Copenhagen climate summit to help bridge traditional political divisions, and to accelerate efforts to forge a new international treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Preparations for Majuro’s hosting of the Dialogue remain on-track despite this week’s disaster.

Foreign Minister Muller said: “This meeting comes just months before the UN Secretary-General convenes world leaders to build support for a new global agreement in Paris next year. Work this year is critical to ensuring that we get the ambitious agreement we need before it’s too late for the Marshall Islands and other vulnerable countries around the globe. What better way to energize the world’s climate diplomats than to have them see our struggle for climate survival with their own eyes?”

Majuro’s hosting of the Cartagena Dialogue comes on the back of the RMI Government’s successful chairing of the biggest Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ meeting in history, just last September. The meeting produced the groundbreaking Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership, which was adopted by all Forum members, including Australia and New Zealand, with commitments to do more to reduce their emissions and accelerate the transition to clean energy. The United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Mexico and the State of Hawai’i have all since made additional commitments under the Declaration.

RMI has also taken the lead in championing the switch to renewable energy through solar power, as well as transformational technologies such as Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (see this week’s New Scientist article).

Media contact:

Thom Woodroofe +692 456 3335 thom.woodroofe@independentdiplomat.org

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