Marshall Islands President first to commit to Ban’s climate summit

NEWS: Christopher Loeak confirms he will bring “bold actions” to UN Secretary General’s September meeting

Source: Pic: Flickr/Christopher Michel

Source: Pic: Flickr/Christopher Michel

By Sophie Yeo

The President of the Marshall Islands is the first world leader to confirm his attendance at Ban Ki-moon‘s climate change summit this September.

Christopher Loeak said that he would be at the meeting, which will take place at the side lines of the UN’s General Assembly, where he will announce “new initiatives and bold actions” to tackle climate change.

“I will be there, and all of your leaders must be there too,” he told climate envoys who have assembled this week in the Marshall Islands for a meeting of the ‘Cartagena Dialogue’ – a group of 30 countries that hold discussions outside of traditional alliances with the aim of achieving a strong treaty to combat climate change in 2015.

Ban’s summit is one of the last opportunities for nations to come forward with their own contributions towards the proposed 2015 agreement before the official deadline of March next year.

Many hope it will be an opportunity for politicians to ratchet up the level of ambition with promises of tougher carbon cuts of financial pledges – but no world leader had definitively said they would attend until now.

If Loeak’s call is heeded by the other countries represented at this week’s meeting, it could be a key step in moving the process forward.

Australia, the EU, Germany, Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates all take part in Cartagena discussions, each with a wide sphere of influence inside the UN negotiations.

The US will be represented by its lead climate negotiator Trigg talley this week.

With the world waiting to see what the US will offer to the international deal, President Obama’s attendance in New York will be crucial if Ban’s gathering of government heads is to have a serious impact.

In an interview with RTCC last month, the UK’s climate change envoy Sir David King said that the summit “had to be a success.” But, he said, “no one wants to go as a head of state unless they have a clear announcement they want to make.”

Science warning

This week’s discussions are taking place in the shadow of the UN climate science panel’s latest report on the impacts of climate change, which was released yesterday.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) painted a bleak picture for small island states like the Marshall Islands, predicting that 15% of all islands would disappear with 1 metre of sea level rise.

Due to the level of carbon dioxide already emitted, the oceans are already ‘locked’ into a rise around 1.3m. Given this context, it is not surprising that the Marshall Islands are already trying to lead the way on tackling climate change.

Last September, the government orchestrated a Majuro Declaration, signed by the leaders of 13 Pacific Islands countries, which set out ambitious targets on renewable energy and “to create a safe space for governments and others to say that they will do more than what they have committed to do so far,” said Loeak.

He added: “This is exactly what the Secretary-General is asking of us, and this group needs to lead the way.”

Firm steps

In a video address to the delegates, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres said that it was important to take “firm steps” at an international level this year to tackle climate change.

“The immense challenge of climate change is materialising, and nowhere is it more evident than the Small Island Developing States,” she said. “The Cartagena Dialogue is a great opportunity to find common ground and align approaches for the international negotiations.

“Too often parties are not working across groups to find results, talking at each other as opposed to with each other, and staying in their silos.”

A UN spokesperson confirmed to RTCC that they had not yet received any confirmations from world leaders on whether they would attend.

“This will be on the margins of the General Assembly, and basically we’re holding the climate summit so all the world leaders will be here at the same time. As of now, we don’t have any names,” they said.

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