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Marshall Islands kicks off twitter campaign urging 2020 climate ambition

  • Published at 03:58 pm December 8th, 2019
Marshall Island
Waves hitting the shore in Majuro, the capital city of the Marshall Islands on November 27, 2019 AFP

The Marshall Islands, a low-lying North Pacific atoll nation threatened by rising seas, flooding and drought, is the only country that has so far formally submitted such an improved plan

The Marshall Islands has challenged all 184 countries with a national climate action plan under the 2015 Paris Agreement on global warming to join a social media campaign to say they will strengthen that plan in 2020.

It called on governments to get behind the "Madrid Ambition Drive for Survival" and use the Twitter hashtag #MAD4survival to declare publicly that they will submit a new plan in 2020, and notify the United Nations of that commitment.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, countries promised to strengthen their national plans to hold the line on emissions and adapt to climate change - known as NDCs - every five years, with the aim of keeping global warming to a lower agreed limit of 1.5°C.

The world has already warmed more than 1°C since pre-industrial times, scientists say, and is expected to pass the 1.5°C mark as early as 2030.

The Marshall Islands, a low-lying North Pacific atoll nation threatened by rising seas, flooding and drought, is the only country that has so far formally submitted such an improved plan.

It includes tighter targets to reduce planet-warming emissions, aimed at meeting the island state's goals of shifting to 100% renewable energy and becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.

Earlier this week, Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine said that if countries missed the 2020 deadline, the next opportunity to step up their efforts would be 2025.

That delay would eliminate any chance of keeping global warming to the 1.5°C limit, she said.

"This is the same as a government deciding to pass sentence on our future - to force our country to die," she added by video link from her country.

On Saturday, she tweeted a picture of herself standing on a beach in the capital Majuro, holding a white piece of paper bearing the campaign hashtag.

"In 'fight to the death, we refuse to die'. Make a #MAD4Survival Stand with Vulnerables," she tweeted.

The tweet also urged countries to follow the lead of members of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), a group of countries disproportionately affected by climate impacts.

About half of the CVF's 48 members - most of them small island states and developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America - have indicated they will submit a stronger climate action plan next year, a spokesman said.

They make up a substantial share of the nearly 70 countries that have promised to increase ambitions in their national plans - but they represent only 8% of global emissions, according to the World Resources Institute, a US-based think-tank.

The CVF has written to all its members to ask them to participate in the #MAD4survival campaign, and is also talking to European and other governments, the spokesman said.

It hopes the push, designed only in recent days, will motivate governments that have yet to commit to update their NDCs next year to do so in the coming week at the UN climate conference in Madrid.

Soon after President Heine kicked off the Twitter campaign, former Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed, now a member of parliament for the ruling party, tweeted that his island nation was on board, and would update its NDC in 2020.

Spain's environment minister, Teresa Ribera, tweeted her support but did not make an NDC commitment.

The CVF is also encouraging businesses, civil society groups and individuals to take part in the campaign.

Royal DSM, a nutrition, health and sustainable energy multinational, tweeted a picture of its CEO, Feike Sijbesma, holding a #MAD4survival sign, adding "Urgent Climate Action needed NOW, especially to support most vulnerable ones!." 

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