Feb 16, 2019 Last Updated 3:40 AM, Feb 8, 2019


TWENTY years of negotiations culminating in intense and physically as well as emotionally draining deliberations in which negotiators burnt the midnight oil right over the wee hours of the next day for 13 days in Paris last month produced the world’s new agreement on climate change world leaders have hailed as historic and ground breaking.

“The Paris Agreement allows each delegation and groups of countries to go back home with their heads held high,” says Laurent Fabius, who was President of COP21 in Paris in his capacity as the French Foreign Minister. “Our collective effort is worth more than the sum of our individual effort,” he added. Standing beside him, a clearly proud French President Francois Hollande who took the bold decision to go ahead with the hosting of COP21 just two weeks after Paris was a capital under siege when Islamic radicals killed 130 people in a series of terrorist attacks, congratulated the world’s negotiators for the new deal.

“You’ve done it, reached an ambitious agreement, a binding agreement, a universal agreement. Never will I be able to express more gratitude to a conference. You can be proud before your children and grandchildren.” 

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Pacific people, of all faiths, are deeply grateful for the leadership shown by Pope Francis on climate change. We must respond by pressing for an ambitious, and just, global agreement at climate negotiations in Paris in December.

IN a powerful letter, addressed not only to the Catholic Church but to all people, Pope Francis explained that climate change is real, and must be urgently addressed. The encyclical letter, called the Laudato Si’ (Italian for ‘Praise Be to You’) called on all people to remember their responsibilities as stewards of creation. Released on June 18, the encyclical emphasised the connection between environmental degradation and poverty, and the connection between love for creation and poverty reduction.

The Pope’s message is clear: we must care for the world and for each other. We cannot steal resources from future generations. To celebrate the release of the encycliby Fenton Lutunatabua cal, two Pacific Climate Warriors – representing the global climate organisation 350.org – travelled to Rome to take part in a march organised by Green Faith and the Global Catholic Climate Movement on June 28. The march, under the banner of ‘One Earth, One Human Family,’ was held to acknowledge how grateful people were for the leadership shown by Pope Francis on climate change.

Arianne Kassman, a young Climate Warrior from Papua New Guinea, said she felt ‘validated’ that Pope Francis had strongly aligned himself with the global climate movement. “To be able to travel to Rome is an incredible moment to be part of,” said Arianne. “Climate change threatens so many aspects of our lives as Pacific islanders. For some of us, it threatens our connections to our land and everything our land represents. When we lose our land, we lose our homes and if we lose our homes our customs, traditions and identity are at risk of being lost too.” George Nacewa, from Fiji, said he was encouraged by the encyclical.

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But rise won’t be uniform

The world’s leading panel of climate change specialists warned in a report issued in September that the world’s oceans will rise on average between half a metre and a metre by the end of the century. But the picture painted by the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change is hazy because the rise will be unevenly spread across the world: land is rising in some places and sinking in others. In addition, even in a single place, the rise won’t be uniform: for instance, the periodic warming of the Central Pacific known as the El Niño phenomenon can change the level by up to 45cm in a single year, as it did in 1998.

In most years, it’s a 15cm increase—as much as the average sea-level rise in the Pacific for the last 60 years. So far, it’s unclear whether these warming events will become more frequent or not. What is clear is that over time, storm surges will cause more damage. Predicting the effects of sea-level rise in a given place—say the Pacific Ocean—is complicated because the average rise is of no true significance: what matters is how high it will reach during a storm and what damage will it inflict on water tables and buildings.

And that is virtually impossible to predict. In coral atolls that emerge only a few metres above sea-level, the picture is further clouded by widespread perceptions that broken seawalls, flooded homes and disappearing islands are all caused by already-risen seas. In fact, scientific studies have shown that they are usually caused by dredging, building causeways between islands, man-made expansion into swamps or reef flats and other human disturbances. Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean are considered to most threatened by the rising seas.

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US firm crashes in on pacific

A US-based company (International Registries) is making money operating the Marshall Islands shipping registry that is used to promote and conduct drilling operations in the Arctic and other seas of the world.

Lagi Toribau, who heads Greenpeace’s global tuna project, says the actions “will drown the Marshall Islands”

“Climate action starts at home, so if Marshall Islands is serious about stopping climate change, we need to get oil rigs and drill ships out of the Marshall Islands Shipping Registry. Now.”

DeBrum said he has “considerable sympathy for the cause Greenpeace has highlighted”. But, he added, “there is a large element of finger-pointing at the expense of the Marshall Islands when they were in fact leading the world in trying to get the IMO on target (for emissions rules)”.

Toribau said drilling in the Arctic needs special attention for climate action.

“The influential science journal Nature published an article earlier this year that specified and quantified the regions of the world where the oil, gas and coal must stay in the ground if we are to avoid dangerous climate change,” said Toribau.

“The article concludes that ‘all Arctic resources should be classified as unburnable.’ Going for Arctic oil means that we have no chance to keep climate change on levels that won’t drown Marshall Islands.” Greenpeace has asked the Marshall Islands Government to:  Revoke registration of the Transocean Polar Pioneer and Transocean Spitsbergen from the RMI ship registry.

                                    Publicly announce disapproval of Shell, Transocean and Statoil oil drilling plans in the Arctic and reaffirming your global commitment to combating climate change.

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THE Marshall Islands ship registry is big in tonnage and getting bigger. It took over the third place globally several years ago and is poised to overtake Liberia to become the second ranked registry behind only Panama. 

At the end of 2014, the Marshalls had flagged 2580 vessels for over 108 million gross tonnes. More significantly, the Marshalls registry continues to be the fastest growing registry, with last year’s 14 per cent grow rate leading the industry and showing little sign of slowing.

Greece-based Theo K. Xenakoudis, director of Worldwide Business Operations of International Registries, Inc., which manages the registry, said by the end of February, the number of vessels flagged had leaped to 3400 accounting for 118 million gross tonnes.

“Based on sustained growth of the Marshall Islands registry, the new building commitments, and the international coverage of registry personnel from the Far East to the United States, we strongly believe the Marshall Islands will be the second largest flag worldwide within the next two years,” he said.

Throughout its nearly 30-year existence, the Marshall Islands registry has been heavily weighted with fuel tankers, which account for the high tonnage but per vessel number flying Marshall Islands flags.

The Marshall Islands registers nearly a fifth of the world’s oil tankers, and also flags over 180 drill ships or drill platforms, nearly as many as Panama (202) and Liberia (265).

Since inception, a key benefit has stood out for ship owners flagging with the Marshall Islands. Under the terms of the treaty between Majuro and Washington, the US military will defend vessels flying Marshall Islands flags as if they were US-flagged.

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