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De Brum loses Marshalls seat

Monday 7 December 2015 | Published in Regional

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MAJURO – The prominent foreign minister of the Marshall Islands, Tony de Brum, is among several ministers to have lost their seats in the country’s elections.

The election results, published on Friday, have caused a big upset for the government of president Christopher Loeak, with half his cabinet voted out of office.

The speaker, vice-speaker, and other government-aligned incumbents have also lost their seats.

De Brum is one of the world’s most vocal advocates for global action to mitigate against climate change, conveying the plight of the low-lying Marshall Islands around the world.

He is currently at the international climate negotiations in Paris and was last week featured on the front page of The New York Times.

Marshall Islands correspondent, Giff Johnson, says de Brum’s advocacy abroad may have contributed to his downfall at home.

“Ebeye, which is a very overcrowded, challenging community hasn’t seen much change overall in many, many years. The foreign minister is doing what a foreign minister does. You know, he goes overseas and beats the drum on climate change, but I think what Ebeye and Kwajalein voters are saying is that they want some action on the local front.”

Asked about the election result, as it became obvious he had lost his seat, the 70-year-old appeared relaxed.

“Constituents always know best – they probably know I am too old already and it is time to hang up my fishing line,” he said.

“Governments come and go, but that is not going to change the severity of the climate change issue by an iota. Whichever government comes in next will be just as concerned about climate change as we have been in the last few years.”

As a low-lying group of coral atolls, the Marshall Islands are acutely vulnerable to sea level rise and increasingly intense storms brought by global warming. They are also a maritime hub, with the world’s third largest shipping registry.

Representing the country, de Brum has travelled the world lobbying for stricter curbs on greenhouse gas emissions and support to protect citizens from the impacts.

In May, he took on his country’s shipping lobby, urging the International Maritime Organisation to set an emissions target for the lightly regulated sector. The UN body refused.

At COP21, he and other island states are calling for a 1.5°C limit on global warming, five-yearly reviews to ramp up ambition and a mechanism to address irreversible damage from a heating planet.

- PNC sources