Thursday, July 23, 2015

Marshall Islands sets ambitious climate targets, urges Australia to lead

The small island nation of the Republic of the Marshall Islands submitted it's climate target on 21st July 2015. It is the first small island state to set an emissions reduction target for 2025, and the first developing country to adopt the simpler and more robust absolute economy-wide target that is usually expected of industrialized countries.

The nation's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) was submitted to the United Nations as part of it's commitment to the climate summit in Paris in December 2015. It reflects a commitment to reduce emissions by 32% below 2010 levels by 2025, and a further indicative target to reduce emissions to 45% below 2010 levels by 2030. The Marshall Islands longer-term vision is to move towards net zero emissions by 2050, or earlier if possible.

Speaking to The Age newspaper, Foreign Minister Tony De Brum urged Australia to also take a leadership and set ambitious climate targets.

"It is important that Australian people understand we are not just playing footsie politics with the leaders of our big neighbour to the south," Mr de Brum said. "We are really serious about its need to contribute to our safety and future security." Brum told the Age.

Christopher J. Loeak, the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, said in a media statement:

"I am proud that, despite the climate disasters hitting our shores with increasing regularity, we remain committed to showing the way in the transition to a low-carbon economy. We may be small, but we exemplify the new reality that going low carbon is in everyone’s interests. It improves our economy, our security, our health and our prosperity, particularly in the Pacific and more broadly in the developing world."

"With these ambitious targets, we are on track to nearly halve our emissions between 2010 and2030, en route to becomingemissions-free by the middle of the century. The science says this is what’s required globally. We have now joined the United States, the European Union, Ethiopia and others in setting a long-term decarbonization strategy. When added together in Paris, these strategies will stamp fossil fuels with an expiry date."

"Having an absolute economy-wide target means no-one has to look into a crystal ball to understand what it means for how much CO2goes into the atmosphere. Unlike ‘below business-as-usual’ and ‘GDP intensity’ targets, our numbers don’t rely on unknown variables like size of population and future economic growth. This is the simplest and most robust type of target that a country can adopt. It says ‘we mean business’, and we’re not continuing with ‘business as usual’."

The Marshall Islands is one of the most vulnerable country to climate impacts from rising sea levels and extreme weather events. It's population of about 70,000 people are scattered across 24 low lying atolls in the North Pacific with the average elevation of 2 metres above mean sea level. Typhoons and storm surge are a major disaster threat made worse with projected intensification of tropical cyclones with climate change and more intense and frequent El Nino's predicted later this century as the planet warms.

The country is already implementing urgent measures to build resilience, improve disaster risk preparedness and response, and adapt to the increasingly serious adverse impacts of climate change from extreme weather events and rising seas.

According to the INDC, almost 90% of national energy needs are currently satisfied by imported petroleum products, particularly in electricity generation, sea and land transport, and fuels for lighting and cooking especially on the outer islands. Since 2008 there has been a concerted effort to increase investment in solar as part of the existing diesel powered grids on the main urban islands, supplemented by demand side energy efficiency improvements.

Under these new targets emissions from the electricity generation sector would reduce by 55 per cent in 2025, and 66 per cent in 2030. For transportation, including domestic shipping, the reduction would be 16 per cent in 2025 and 27 per cent in 2030. Reducing emissions from processing waste would amount to 20 per cent by 2030. Other sectors, including cooking and lighting, would contyribute a 15 per cent reduction by 2030.

The INDC submission mentions the potential for developing Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion technology to make the Marshall Islands largely energy self-sufficient.