The president of a Pacific island has said that western countries should do more to fight climate change as sea levels rise and extreme weather threatens the lives of people living in the region.
At the next Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), due to be held this month in Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, president Christopher Loeak will tell some of the world’s largest polluters, including the US, China and EU member states, that islanders may soon lose their homes because of rising sea levels, floods and droughts.
The Marshall Islands are a group of 29 atolls and coral islands that on average stand only two metres above sea level. This makes them particularly vulnerable to climate change.
Earlier this year the republic declared a state of emergency after simultaneous experiencing devastating droughts and floods. A freak tide nearly destroyed the capital Majuro, breaching its sea walls and flooding the airport runway.
Loeak said, “The Pacific is fighting for its survival. Climate change has already arrived”.
“I say ‘welcome to climate change’ when people come here. We will not stop telling people that it is a real issue for humanity. We will be the first to feel it, but it will come to them and they should realise it.”
Loeak has argued that western countries need to do more, as they are the ones most to blame for climate change, while small atolls in the Pacific have contributed to pollution relatively little. According to the Guardian, many of the Marshallese have even started to use renewable energy instead of traditional fuel, even though the country is currently producing less than 0.1% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
European commissioner for climate action Connie Hedegaard commented, “It is my ambition to make the European Union and the Pacific region partners in advancing the global climate change agenda.
“The Pacific region can count on Europe’s climate cooperation and ambition. We count on the Pacific region to help us bringing all other major economies on board of an ambitious future climate regime to be finalised in 2015.
“There is no time to lose if we want to avoid that devastating climate-driven disasters become the new normal”, she added.
Meanwhile, the European Commission’s humanitarian aid and civil protection department (ECHO) has announced that it will provide €150,000 to people affected by severe droughts in the Marshall Islands, which has left many inhabitants without drinking water.