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Articles: Marshall Islands Prepares to Host Big Climate Conference in New York

Contributed by YokweOnline on May 02, 2011 - 09:54 PM

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RMI has been busy preparing to co-host an international conference on climate change, to be held jointly with Columbia University in New York. The conference, to be held from May 23rd through 25th is titled “Threatened Island Nations: Legal Implications Of Rising Seas and A Changing Climate”.

Over 200 university professors and international researchers from around the world are planning to attend, to discuss possible solutions for the long-term risks posed by rising sea levels.

Some scholars are proposing possible lawsuits, and others are looking at new treaties or resolutions to preserve political boundaries or address possible migration issues.

President Zedkaia will deliver a keynote address, and Foreign Minister Silk will address the conference opening as well as taking part in discussions on the margins. RMI will also be represented by Senators Dennis Momotaro and Fred Muller, and Secretary of State Kino Kabua. In addition, RMI has invited Heads of State and Ministers from several other island nations, as well as top UN officials.

To fund the conference, RMI reached out to donors, including the World Bank, Australia, South Korea, Columbia University's Earth Institute and Israel. The efforts of donors have allowed RMI to fund the conference, including travel costs for academic presenters and high level delegations. Said RMI UN Ambassador Phillip Muller, “our donors have been very generous in their response, and this is a very ambitious event. The donors are interested in how we plan to address this complex issue.” In addition, many UN Ambassadors have expressed interest in taking part in discussions, on invitation from RMI.

“The conference is not about the ongoing climate negotiations – but instead we are trying to get some new thinking on how to address the long-term threats to RMI's security,” stated Ambassador Muller.

The RMI-Columbia University conference will address some of the complicated, long-term risks by outlining some new thinking on addressing the legal risks, as well as to showcase some potential “design options” for long-term adaptation and energy issues, which respond to recent initiatives put forward by RMI's local communities.

The conference came about, said Ambassador Muller, when he delivered a speech on climate change at the West Point, the US Army's military college. At the West Point event, the Ambassador discussed these issues with Columbia University Law Professor Michael Gerrard, former head of the American Bar Association's Environmental Law Committee. Professor Gerrard then visited Majuro last year, speaking with RMI Ministers and government officials.

Said Ambassador Muller, “if we start now on a stronger path to adapting to climate impacts – protecting our shores and our water supplies – and further global emissions cuts, then these risks are sharply reduced. So immediate action is our top priority.”

However, Ambassador Muller stated that, at this conference, “now we also have to start asking what happens if we fail – or if impacts are at the upper end of predictions. We cannot hide any longer from these difficult questions, even if they ultimately take years to solve.”

RMI first identified threats to statehood and political boundaries in a national report 20 years ago. There are few prior examples to guide the international community, said Ambassador Muller, which means new thinking is needed.

The RMI-Columbia University conference will be broadcast live online at Columbia University's website. RMI's delegation is also bringing handicrafts, which will be for sale to conference participants.

- Republic of the Marshall Islands’ Mission to the United Nations, May 2, 2011, New York

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