The Pacific Islands Forum Responds to Climate Change

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I am here this week in Majuro in the Marshall Islands – where leaders from the Pacific Island Forum have gathered to discuss the impacts of climate change and to push for global action to mitigate the effects.

Here in the Marshall Islands, the highest point above sea level is only 3 meters.

In May this year, an unprecedented drought in the northern atolls of the Marshall Islands left many without enough food and water.

In July, storm surges combined with king-tides washed over the seawall, flooding the capital city, washing over the airport runway, and contaminating limited freshwater supplies.

In a very real sense, the Marshall Islands and the wider Pacific region are on the front line of climate change and more frequent natural hazards.

As our recent global report, “Turn Down the Heat” warned, without ambitious climate action we could experience a 2ºC (3.6ºF) warmer world in our lifetime and 4ºC (7ºF) increase by the end of the century. 

A 4ºC temperature means the risk of sea levels rising from 50cm to 1 meter over the coming century, which would be devastating to many pacific countries, including this one.

Coral reef systems could become extinct, and low laying atolls face the risk of being submerged.

Climate change could undermine future food security and have serious implications for people’s health and would result in reduced freshwater reserves.

Natural hazards such as cyclones and tidal surges, which already cause loss of life and immense damage across the Pacific, may increase in intensity.

In the face of this rising tide, failure to act on climate change risks putting prosperity out of reach of millions of people in the developing world and threatens to roll back decades of development.

It is not too late to hold warming to 2ºC.  But this will require commitment and decisive action from a range of global partners to reduce emissions.

Even if policy measures do manage to limit global warming to around 2 degrees by the end of the century, huge investments will still be needed to help countries adapt and to strengthen the resilience of the communities most at risk.

The leaders of the Pacific Island Forum this week proposed the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership, to galvanize a new wave of climate action.

At this critical time in the history of the Pacific, it is essential the discussion goes beyond words and pledges and results in concrete actions and commitments, from all actors, to combat climate change.
We at the World Bank Group stand ready to work with Pacific Island nations to meet this challenge.


Axel van Trotsenburg

World Bank’s Senior Managing Director (SMD)

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