March 24, 2023

While world leaders from wealthy nations acknowledge the “existential threat” of climate change, Tuvalu’s Prime Minister Kosia Natano is racing to raise the small island nation to 13 to 16 feet (4 to 5 meters) above sea level through land reclamation to prevent drowning. .

While experts warn Marshall Islands will eventually be uninhabitable, president David Cabua The injustice of a seawall built to protect one house, which is now flooding another house next door, must be reconciled.

This is the reality of climate change: some people can talk about it from a distance, while others have to experience it every day.

Natano and Kabua tried to demonstrate this reality during the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday. Together, they launched the Emerging Nations Initiative, a global partnership to protect the sovereignty, heritage and rights of Pacific atoll island nations whose very existence is threatened by climate change.

Natano describes how rising seas will affect everything from the soil his people rely on to grow crops, to washed out homes, roads and power lines. He said the cost of subsistence eventually became unbearable, causing families to leave and the state itself to disappear.

“This is how the Pacific atolls die,” Natano said. “This is how our islands will cease to exist.”

The Rising Nation Initiative seeks a political declaration from the international community to uphold the sovereignty and rights of Pacific Atoll Island States; create a comprehensive plan to build and fund adaptation and resilience projects to help local communities sustain their livelihoods; each Pacific Atoll Island State’s A living treasure trove of cultural and unique heritage; and support for the designation of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The initiative has already received support from countries such as the US, Germany, South Korea and Canada, all of which acknowledge the unique burdens that island nations such as Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands have to shoulder.

One Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change The report, released in February, sheds light on the vulnerability of small island developing States and other global hotspots such as Africa and South Asia, where populations are more likely to die from extreme weather than less vulnerable parts of the world. 15 times.

Climate analysis and report co-author Adele Thomas from the University of the Bahamas said warming above a few tenths of a degree could cause some areas — including some small islands — to become uninhabitable. On Wednesday, Natano noted that Tuvalu and its Pacific neighbors “have done nothing to cause climate change” and that their carbon emissions contribute less than 0.03 percent of the world’s total.

“For the first time in history, the collective action of many countries will render several sovereign states uninhabitable,” he said.

Representatives from other countries participating in Wednesday’s event did not shirk the blame. But it remains to be seen whether they will do enough to turn things around.

Some have pledged money to help island nations pay for early warning systems and bring their buildings to code to better protect them from hurricanes and other weather events. But there has been less discussion about climate change mitigation and more about how to adapt to the damage it has already caused.

“We saw this train coming, it was going down the track and we needed to get out of the way,” said Amy Pope, deputy director general of the International Organization for Migration.

German climate envoy, Jennifer MorganAlso at Wednesday’s event, she spoke about her country’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2045. But while Germany remains committed to phasing out coal as an energy source by 2030, it has had to restart coal-fired power plants to survive the coming winter of energy shortages due to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

For the president of the Marshall Islands, rich countries can do more. In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Kabua urged world leaders to tackle industries that depend on fossil fuels, including aviation and shipping. He pointed to the Marshall Islands’ proposal for a carbon tax on international shipping, which he said “would drive the transition to zero-emission shipping, diverting resources from polluters to the most vulnerable.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres likewise encouraged the hunt for the world’s biggest polluters.In his opening address to the convention on Tuesday, he pushed for rich countries Taxes on profits of energy companies And reallocate funds to “countries that have suffered losses and damage from the climate crisis” and those struggling with rising living costs.

Meanwhile, as rich nations urge action over rhetoric in their own UN speeches, Kabua, Natano and other island leaders will continue to grapple with the everyday reality of climate change — and try to survive.

The Associated Press’s Philadelphia correspondent, Pia Sarkar, was on a mission to interview the United Nations General Assembly. Follow her on Twitter at and for more AP coverage of the UN General Assembly at

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