The Marshall Islands has announced it is joining the initiative for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty during the General Debate at the Fourth International Conference on Small Islands Developing States in Antigua and Barbuda.

Taking great strides, this follows on from the Marshall Islands declaring its candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council elections later this year.

Five months on from being sworn into office, President Hilde Heine of the Marshall Islands made the announcement calling the Treaty a vital step to halting the expansion of fossil fuels ensuring an equitable, urgent transition to renewables.

This step, demonstrating their commitment towards a safer world for all humankind in the face of climate change comes as the cost of climate change continues to mount.

“In just the first weeks of office, our government had to approve USD$1.8 million, a significant hit to our small economy, to help our people facing severe drought and inundation – a direct result of the climate crisis. In turn, we have less money for health, for education, and for development,” stated H.E President Heine as she took the stage today at the conference which has brought together over 3,000 delegates.

“My country has stood strong through a challenging history, including a legacy of nuclear testing that continues to affect our population to this day. The world has recognised, though not fully addressed, the peril of nuclear weapons. We must treat the root of the climate crisis, fossil fuels, with similar gravity. We cannot pretend that the continued development of fossil fuels is not a danger to us all.”

In 2022 the subsidies for fossil fuel consumption topped USD$1 trillion. President Heine raised the impact this funding could have had if funnelled towards adaptation, renewable energy or to the world’s most needy.

“The costs (of climate impacts) will only rise, and will be paid in more and more human lives, if we fail to deal with the root cause: fossil fuels,” said President Heini as she highlighted the need to transform our approach to climate finance with the costs of the climate crises to rise exponentially saying the half-hearted approach and unmet promises will not work.

The Marshall Islands National Adaptation Plan outlines that the costs for two major populations centres and infrastructure protection will come to USD$9 billion and this funding does not span to other areas needed for climate change adaptation, strengthening health and education systems or preservation of local cultures. This amount will also not be enough to address the implications of Marshall Islanders being forced to leave their homes as sea levels rise and the impacts make life untenable in some parts of the Marshall Islands.

“There was a time at the UN where, as small island developing states we were questioned, misunderstood or unacknowledged by our partners and the international system. And that time is done, for the pages of political history. As small island nations, we will no longer be sidelined. Our island peoples, and our island leaders, have made our voice known, loud and clear,” presented President Heine.

“For the Marshall Islands and many small island developing states – human rights cannot be a distant ideal. The basic dignity and core social development- the fundamental freedoms which all must be able to enjoy – remain out of reach for some. We know from our own history and experience that larger politics cannot be allowed to drown out the voices of the most vulnerable.

That is why the Marshall Islands has declared our candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council elections later this year.”

President Heine ended her statement at SIDS4 calling upon every country, particularly the G20, to deliver on their commitment to transition away from fossil fuels, and to document just how they plan to do this in their updated Nationally Determined Contributions to be updated next year.

“The climate crisis puts the human rights of all countries and people at risk, but SIDS are being hit hardest and fastest. We must stay united in our commitment to ambition, and to justice and safety for our people and future generations,” she stated.

President Hilda Heine of the Republic of the Marshall Islands presented during the Plenary Session of the 27 May 2024, day one of the fourth International Conference on Small Islands Developing States in Antigua and Barbuda.

The SIDS4 conference is held from 27 to 30 May 2024.