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COP26: Small Marshall Islands delegation hopes for big impact

Friday 15 October 2021 | Written by RNZ | Published in Marshall Islands, Regional


COP26: Small Marshall Islands delegation hopes for big impact
This 2014 photo shows the aftermath of a high tide storm surge in Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands. Photo: Marshall Islands Journal

The Marshall Islands hopes to see the global spotlight focused on climate adaptation and mitigation financing as world leaders and climate negotiators come together at the end of this month for the annual COP26 climate summit in Scotland.

This is all focused on raising "climate ambition," said Marshall Islands Climate Change Directorate Director Clarence Samuel, who will be part of a small delegation going from Marshall Islands to the huge international summit. Five people are expected to travel from this western Pacific nation to join up with a handful of Marshall Islands officials based in the US and Europe.

"The Marshall Islands has been consistent in its message on these three pillars - mitigation, adaptation and climate financing," he said.

"We are focusing on these." Since the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, funding pledged by developed nations to help developing countries like Marshall Islands address climate impacts has continued to be lacking, Samuel said. The world has not gotten close to delivering on the climate aid promised, he said.

The Marshall Islands is sending a small delegation to ensure its voice is heard at the summit, he added. "We cannot negotiate online," Samuel said of the experience over the past year handling most discussions over Zoom or other internet platforms. "It's hard enough to negotiate in person. Our presence is important."

Most islands in atoll nations, such as in this aerial view of Jaluit in the Marshall Islands, are as little as two meters above sea level and threatened by climate change. Photo: Giff Johnson

The anticipated five-member delegation from Majuro - which will have to quarantine for up to three weeks to return home due to Covid entry protocols - will be joined in Glasgow by Marshall Islands Climate Envoy Tina Stege and several other UN and Geneva-based officials.

Stege has been in Europe in recent days meeting with the High Ambition Coalition and others in the lead up to COP26.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported last weekend that Stege met with US climate ambassador John Kerry in Milan last week.

Tina Stege, the climate envoy for the Marshall Islands. Photo: Twitter / Tina Stege

The Marshall Islands and several other island countries have been named to co-chair various thematic areas of discussions at COP26.

Among key meetings the Marshall Islands delegation will be involved with include meeting with the other all-atoll nations of Kiribati, Tuvalu and Maldives to discuss strategy and actions.

Currently, the Marshall Islands is chair of this group of the four nations in the world made up entirely of atolls.

In addition, Marshall Islands is a convener of the High Ambition Coalition, a group first organized by the country's late Climate Ambassador Tony deBrum in the lead up to the Climate Paris Agreement in 2015. "Marshall Islands will conduct meetings on the side of COP26 with the High Ambition Coalition," Samuel said.

Samuel observed that the Covid pandemic adds a risk to participating in COP26. But while the pandemic is happening, climate change continues to worsen for everyone.

"The Marshall Islands aim is to push other countries to raise their ambition for action to combat climate change," Samuel said.