The Marshall Islands, an atoll-nation vulnerable to sea level rise from climate change, on Monday announced steps toward an ambitious plan to cut its greenhouse emissions to zero by 2050.
The Pacific country became the first small island nation to present such a strategy to the UN amid increasing interest from governments worldwide towards eliminating planet-warming emissions in a bid to curb manmade climate change.
“If we can do it so can you,” Marshallese President Hilda Heine said at an event on the sidelines of the annual UN summit that featured a handful of heads of small island nations.
The announcement came as more than 150 heads of state and government gathered for the annual UN General Assembly.
Heine upped the pressure on world leaders to go beyond current pledges to reduce their heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions as agreed in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
“I challenge you all to develop your own vision to fully decarbonize by 2050,” she told an audience of climate policymakers and advocates brought together by US non-profit The Climate Group.
Aseem Prakash, founding director of the University of Washington’s Center for Environmental Politics, said the Marshall Islands’ move spoke to a growing trend around carbon neutrality by cities, companies and now countries.
Cities, regions and companies, including Indian conglomerate Mahindra and the state of California, made similar carbon-zero commitments in the run-up and at a global climate summit held in San Francisco earlier this month.
The announcement was charged with symbolism, said Prakash, as the Marshall Islands contribute less than 0.00001 percent of total global emissions.
The Marshall Islands’ net-zero strategy, in addition to seeking to slow climate change in the transport, electricity and waste sector, stresses the need to invest into adapting to freak weather events linked to global warming, from hurricanes to floods, Heine said.
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