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Republic of the Marshall Islands

Statement to Closing Plenary of MEPC81

Agenda Item 7 – Reduction of GHG emissions from ships

22 March 2024

H. E. Ambassador Albon Ishoda, Presidential Special Envoy for the Maritime Transition

Thank you Chair.

I bring warm greetings of "Iakwe" to you all from the people and Government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

Assembled delegates, esteemed guests, and distinguished members of the International Maritime Organization, it is both an honor and a privilege to address you today on a matter of utmost importance ensuring a sustainable future for our islands, our oceans, our future generations and our planet!

All protocols observed.

Mr. Chair, for our communities on the frontline, the deepening climate emergency is a very real and very now crisis, one that right now is threatening our very homes and survival. The flights out of Majuro today are full of families fleeing their ancestral homes. Before I proceed with my brief statement, I wish to share a bit of history with you all today. Back home within our communities, there are groups of families and friends that have already experienced the impacts of forced migration first hand. I am talking about 78 years ago.

Mr. Chair, from 1946-1958, the United States government conducted their nuclear testing program over our northern atolls of Enewetak and Bikini. A total of 67 atomic and hydrogen bombs over a span of 12 years. Among the 67 nuclear weapons, the renowned "Bravo", which was the codename of the bomb, was the biggest and most powerful atmospheric nuclear weapon ever detonated by the US government. It was 1,000 times more powerful than the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.

Mr. Chair, of course prior to the testing, people had to be removed (not temporarily but permanently) from their lands, where culture and traditional heritage have been cherished and inherited from generation to generation for some 4000 years. Today, I am disheartened to say that these involuntary migrants continue to be faced with hardships and still experience the affliction of being refugees outcast within different communities in-their own country. 78 years later, they have not returned to their homelands due to the high level of radioactivity measures that are still present within these islands.

Mr. Chairman, I share this short history because as a nation, highly vulnerable to climate change and sea level rise, we definitely do not want to go through another wave of forced migration. We have lived through it for the last 78 years and still breathe through its calamities. Now we are being forced to re-live it.

Today, we stand at a critical juncture in human history, where the decisions we have made this week will reverberate for generations to come. The urgency of addressing climate change and its impacts on our environment demands bold and decisive action. The 1.5-degree Celsius target outlined in the Paris Agreement serves as our guiding light, our beacon of hope in a world fraught with uncertainty.

At the heart of our endeavor lies the imperative to align shipping’s agenda with the 1.5-degree target. This necessitates a fundamental shift in the way we approach maritime governance and regulation. We must recognize that the shipping industry, while indispensable to global trade and commerce, also carries a significant environmental burden. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to embrace the principle of "polluter pays" and implement economic measures that incentivize sustainability, penalize environmental degradation, and drive shipping’s green transition. To achieve the transition we must go through requires a paradigm shift of unprecedented scale and scale. Weak or cheap half measures are not available to us if we are to align with 1.5.

However, the question inevitably arises: what do we do with the revenue generated as a byproduct of such measures? This is where our commitment to the principles of equitable transition comes into play. We must ensure that the burden of transition does not disproportionately fall upon the most vulnerable communities and economies. Rather, we must strive for fairness and justice in the distribution of resources and benefits.

Furthermore, we must recognize that the transition to a sustainable shipping industry is not solely an environmental imperative but also an economic and social one. It presents us with an opportunity to create new green jobs, foster innovation, and promote social cohesion. Therefore, as we chart our course forward, let us not lose sight of the broader vision of a just, equitable and sustainable future for all in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

Equitable transition must not only guide our substantive outcomes but also the process we employ to reach them. It requires inclusivity, transparency, and meaningful engagement with all stakeholders, including civil society organizations, indigenous communities, and marginalized groups. Their voices must be heard, their concerns addressed, and their rights respected. Last week we heard a significant and growing convergence of the voices of our smaller states on this matter.

We must also get the technical aspects of this transition right. That means a simple GFS that follows a GHG price, but is enacted at the same point, to provide long term certainty for the industry. It means dealing with emissions on a well to wake basis, for both the technical and economic element. And it means the most rigorous standards of environmental integrity for all aspects of the Lifecycle Assessment Guidelines.

Therefore, let us reaffirm our commitment to the 1.5-degree target, to the principle of polluter pays, and to the principles of equitable transition. Let us seize this moment as an opportunity to shape a better world for ourselves and for future generations. Together, we can chart a course towards a more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient shipping industry, in which safe and just zero emission shipping connects all regions of the world, and advances the prosperity of every country.

We have made good progress these last two weeks, but much work remains. We look forward to engaging with all interested parties intersessionally to place us in the best possible position when we return in September.

Thank you.