On Wednesday, October 28, 2015, the American Security Project hosted an event featuring Minister Tony de Brum, Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands. He discussed the devastating effects climate change is already having on the islands, as well as the international cooperation needed to tackle this problem quickly and effectively.
Minister de Brum began by noting, “A country’s security is a function of its location.” As a “large ocean nation,” not a “small island state,” de Brum explained the general fears the island population has in the coming decades if the world does not act on climate security.
“We are literally at the mercy of rising waves,” he exclaimed.
The rising oceans in an area lying just two meters above sea level pose as only one risk. Already the nation has experienced two national emergencies since 2013, leading Mr. de Brum to claim, “We are living in a warzone.”
This has caused economic costs, such as a major typhoon wiping out 3% of the Islands’ GDP. Things can only get worse, and this situation is not unique to the Islands, de Brum stated.
That is why the Paris negotiations in December can serve as a major inflection point – a “force multiplier.” He also calls upon the United States to do what it can to defend the Marshall Islands.
“If my country goes, so too will your military bases,” declared the minister.
Mr. de Brum also expressed the importance of global cooperation in combating climate change, noting that over 150 countries – including the Marshall Islands – have joined the United States and submitted their INDCs, effectively covering more than 90% of global emissions.
To ensure the best success, the minster stated that Paris needs to have (1) practical terms, and (2) a mechanism that allows countries to adapt to new technological advances every 5 years. Cheaper solar technology, for example, allows countries to set even bigger emission goals.
The Green Climate Fund must be secured, urged the minister. With this, accelerated adaptation can create resilience to the most vulnerable states. In addition, increased coordinated effort can reduce IMO emissions, another policy the minister called for.
Minister de Brum went on to explain the actions the Marshall Islands have taken themselves to reduce emissions. They have established a 99% solar energy rate in the outer islands and have been working with a French firm to reintroduce OTEC. The Islands have also begun introducing fish farming techniques that can better help the environment. Mr. de Brum did note, however, that while short-term solutions such as purchasing land and building platforms remain on everyone’s mind, the real goal is still to reduce net emissions to 0 by mid-century.
The takeaway from these revelations is simple: “If we can do it, so can you.” This mentality could hopefully influence other nations to take action. Small nations such as the Islands face the most risk, hence the urgency of these nations to push larger nations to take action. They also face the most challenges, as their resources are noticeable smaller than other countries’.
As such, saving the Marshall Islands serves not only as a moral and national security imperative, it also serves as a motivational factor. Saving the Islands implies that the world has coordinated effectively and established policies that can assist even the most vulnerable countries.
As the minster declared, “If we save the Marshall Islands, we save the planet.”
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