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Marshall Islands

Marshall Islands leader follows father’s footsteps

In 1991, the leader of a small Micronesian state stood in front of the United Nations General Assembly telling them how his nation would eventually go under water if the biggest emitters in the world did not take global warming seriously.

He was Amata Kabua, the first president of Marshall Islands. Three decades later, his son and current president of Marshall Islands, David Kabua took centre stage again at the same forum.

Mr Kabua said the fight to keep his island home above water has been a long one and to date very little has been done in terms of action by the people responsible for the most emissions.

He also highlighted his concern over nuclear weapons testing and detonation in the Marshall Islands. He said the world knew very well the effect of the use of fossil fuel but it continues to be used, even more now.

“Today, we renew our call to the world to declare total war on this century’s greatest challenge — the climate change monster,” he said.

Marshall Islands president David Kabua with Pacific Islands Forum secretary general Henry Puna at the UNGA. Picture PIF
Marshall Islands president David Kabua with Pacific Islands Forum secretary general Henry Puna at the UNGA. Picture: PIF

“After so many years, the world has failed to break our addiction to fossil fuels. We are not investing enough in life-saving adaptation, particularly for small island states.”

He urged world leaders to drastically increase renewable energy while also taking on sectors that rely on fossil fuels, including aviation and shipping.

The Marshallese president spoke of the Marshall Islands’ carbon levy proposal for international shipping that looks to transit the industry to zero emission shipping.

Mr Kabua, along with the leaders of Tuvalu and Kiribati, plan to launch the Rising Nations Initiative to press for innovative efforts among Pacific atoll island countries to combat climate change.

Members of the Pacific delegation including Marshall Islands president David Kabua. Picture PIF
Members of the Pacific delegation including Marshall Islands president David Kabua. Picture: PIF

On the issue of nuclear testing, Mr Kabua said there was progress towards a new association agreement with the United States, but said it is vital to better address the legacy of US nuclear testing and climate change.

“It is vital that the legacy and contemporary challenges of nuclear impact testing be better addressed, that climate change be addressed with the urgency and commitment it deserves, and that our voice as an equal partner is strengthened,” Mr Kabua said.

The Marshall Islands and other Pacific island states, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau, signed agreements known as compacts with the United States in the late 1980s that give the US defence responsibility and the right to military bases in return for economic support.

“While we have shared goals and a strong partnership with the United States of America, we also have grave development challenges and essential needs,” Mr Kabua said.

“We welcome recent progress with the United States of America towards a renewed Compact of Free Association and with it a targeted trust fund,” he said.

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