STATEMENT BY MS. RINA TAREO, CHARGE D’AFFAIRS OF THE
THE REPUBLIC OF THE MARSHALL ISLANDS MISSION TO THE UNITED NATIONS, DURING THE 62ND GENERAL ASSEMBLY
THEMATIC DEBATE ON “ADDRESSING CLIMATE CHANGE: THE UNITED NATIONS AND THE WORLD AT WORK”
NEW YORK , 12 FEBRUARY 2008
The Republic of the Marshall Islands wishes to fully align itself with the statement of Tonga on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States.
Many of the world’s low-lying small island nations – the nations most vulnerable to climate impacts – have spent decades trying to bring the urgency of climate change to the attention of member nations. With an average height of only
3 meters above sea level, the Republic of the Marshall Islands truly values the personal leadership of Secretary-General Moon, as well as the commitment of General Assembly President Kerim, in finally providing climate change its much-deserved attention within the UN system.
However, we must not fool ourselves into thinking that climate change can be addressed only by generalized discussion – instead, the global community needs the help of a more effective and coherent UN system to turn broad hopes for climate change into action-oriented results. Too often, paperwork, studies and well-founded UN agency intentions have failed to translate into real benefits.
The UN system must recognize that “adaptation” is an inherently limited long-term solution for certain low-lying member nations, such as the Republic of the
Marshall Islands . While there are important mid-term adaptation strategies, such as the Micronesia Challenge (which aims to conserve our vulnerable coastal resources by 2020), ultimately we will likely face questions which are without legal precedent in the global community.
With fragile coastal ecosystems as the basis of our food security, and our traditional land tenure as the foundation of our cultural identity, my nation must ask the global community difficult questions regarding threats to our development, security and fundamental freedom – what becomes of our national boundaries and cultural traditions, our legal identity and our homeland? In what ways might major emitters bear responsibility under international law? The global community cannot continue to avoid these questions. In working to support UNFCC negotiations, the UN system can also facilitate productive diplomatic discussion on issues of human rights and national sovereignty central to the UN Charter.
My nation suggests that an important role for the UN system rests in assisting member nations with domestic implementation of the UNFCC and other climate change goals.
The need for assistance has never been more urgent – major GHG emitters are struggling to integrate climate strategies with economic development goals. Domestic climate change initiatives are time-consuming to develop, are rarely linked with urban or industrial growth programs at the national or local level, and rarely allow for public involvement.
With extreme urgency, the Republic of the Marshall Islands calls attention to the August 2007 plenary statement of the Asian-African Legal Consultative Organization, which called upon the global community to examine the potential interlinkage between climate goals and existing national or local environmental laws, in particular environmental impact assessment (a legal norm unilaterally adopted by over 100 member nations). We urge the UN system, in particular UNDP and UNEP, to carefully study the ability of environmental impact assessment laws to address climate change, and, as appropriate, work closely with national experts to build this capacity.
Our relationships on climate change with key partners have already allowed my nation to take great strides in reducing our own GHG emissions (even though we are not an Annex 1 nation). However, those decision-makers who have the greatest opportunity to make an impact on implementing climate change goals – and those populations who are at greatest risk – are too often excluded from meaningful interaction with the UN system.
Innovative cross-sectoral partnerships open up direct lines of communication between populations most affected by climate impacts, and the decision-makers who are able to reduce those impacts (such as major cities). A useful example is the 2007 Statement of Shared Action between the Republic of the Marshall Islands and King County , Washington in the United States (including the City of Seattle ). We encourage the UN system to take a more direct role in playing matchmaker and encouraging these direct relationships between key decision-makers and highly-vulnerable populations.
Oceans and coastal areas are critical for the survival of many small island developing states. We call upon the UN system to address the potential for the conservation of coral reefs to be considered as an eligible carbon sink under the Clean Development Mechanism. In addition, we call upon the UN system to examine the link between climate change impacts (including coral reef bleaching and ocean acidification) and the food security gained from commercial and subsistence fisheries, and to alert decision-makers of its findings.
The Republic of the
Marshall Islands is strongly concerned that new global climate change funding mechanisms under discussion with the World Bank may compete with existing funding channels for adaptation. It is important that the recipient nations also be afforded an opportunity to participate in governance of these funds, and that the UN system ensures that climate change adaptation funding continues to be addressed with transparency.
The narrow window for global action is rapidly closing. My nation urges both the UN system, and member nations, to meet this extraordinary challenge by turning rhetoric into results.