Marshall Islands puts global greenhouse gas emitters on notice | Pacific Beat

Marshall Islands puts global greenhouse gas emitters on notice

Marshall Islands puts global greenhouse gas emitters on notice

Updated 29 July 2013, 16:41 AEST

The Marshall Islands is calling on Australia and other Pacific Rim countries to create a new wave of global leadership on climate change.

Tony de Brum, Minister in Assistance to the President of the Marshall Islands, the equivalent of the Vice President, is in Canberra to highlight the unprecedented droughts and floods that have hit his country and to seek support from Prime Minister Rudd for action at this years Pacific leaders summit.

Jemima Garrett reports.

Presenter: Jemima Garrett

Speaker: Tony De Brum, Minister in Assistance to the Marshall Islands President

GARRETT: The Marshall Islands is on the frontline of climate change.

Its sandy atolls rise no higher than 2 metres above sea level.

In the north people have been suffering a devastating drought.

It has left them with just one litre of water each per day and killed crops.

Long range weather predictions now show the drought is likely to continue until next year.

Tony De Brum, Minister in Assistance to the President, says in the south the problem is flooding.

DE BRUM: Majuro the capital of the Marshalls has only two hours of running water, three times a week, three days a week, a total of six hours of running water per week so it both the effects of drought and the effects of flooding in the same time. I don't think anyone has recorded this kind of indication that this problem is here and now.

GARRETT: At the beginning of September the Marshall Islands will host this years Pacific Islands leaders meeting.

The President wants the 16-nation Pacific Forum to agree on a Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership to help unlock urgent and concrete action across the globe.

The opportunity for the Forum to make its mark will come in talks with the world's major emitters at the post-Forum Dialogue.

China, India, the European Union, and others will be there but it is the United States that Minister de Brum is holding out most hope for.

DE BRUM: We think that Obama has made a good step forward, all be it a little bit late. And we hope we can co-operate with the United States government to move it along much further than it has so far.

GARRETT: Sixty per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from Pacific Rim countries and many will attend the leaders post-Forum dialogue. You've invited US Secretary of State, John Kerry. How optimistic are you that he will be there?

DE BRUM: I have no doubts that United Sates will se the absolute value of having Mr Kerry attend and that he will, in fact, attend. It is important to remember that in the last Forum in the Cook Islands, Mrs Clinton attended as US Secretary of State. She has already raised the stakes for the Pacific participation in climate change. We have a very important panel of experts in Majuro to discuss the issue as well. That plus the declaration that we contemplate makes it almost absolutely necessary that the United States participates at a level not lower than last year's Forum.

GARRETT: The advisory panel to the Pacific Forum will include former Irish President, Mary Robinson, European Union Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard and UK Special Representative for Climate Change Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti.

Marshall Islands Minister Tony de Brum says Australia, will be crucial to the success of the Majuro Declaration, especially with its new role on the United Nations security Council.

DE BRUM: Australia has always been a big brother down south to us, even though we are up north. We think that anything that the Pacific Islands do in terms of climate change must have the blessing, the support and the voice of Australia and New Zealand to the outside world. You have circles of diplomatic friends far wider and much more powerful than each of us, or even of the small island states of the Pacific put together. Those important connections must be used to draw attention to the fact that climate change is now, it needs the attention of the world now, and the sacrifice of the large developed countries must be part of that solution.

GARRETT: Over more than 20 years Australia, under both Labor and Coalition governments has not gone as far as the Pacific wants in pushing global climate action. Does that present a problem for getting a strong Majuro Declaration?

DE BRUM: We do not think so and part of my mission on this run it to makes sure that our view on this is also understood by our big brother developing partners. You see it does not matter which party is leading Australia or which government is in control, we see Australia as Australia, our neighbour, our brother and it does not change in any way what their role would be in this climate change effort. We understand the politics of the elections and we do not want to be interfering in that process at all. but we want to reassure our friends in Australia and New Zealand that we consider them to be part and parcel of this effort. It cannot be separated because of differences with the countries themselves.

Contact the studio

Got something to say about what you're hearing on the radio right now?

Send your texts to +61 427 72 72 72

Add the hashtag #raonair to add your tweets to the conversation.

Email us your thoughts on an issue. Messages may be used on air.