Climate-affected Marshall Islands don't intend to relocate

12:10 pm on 23 April 2021

The Marshall Islands Foreign Minister Casten Nemra says his country's people have no intention of relocating due to sealevel rise.

Nemra's comments come as the Marshalls' president David Kabua attends the US-hosted virtual Leaders Summit on Climate Change.

Atoll nations are seeing an increased frequency in ocean inundations during high tides and storms. In this 2016 file photo of Majuro Atoll, a photographer stands ankle deep in water as ocean water floods over the island and onto the main road in the foreground.

Atoll nations are seeing an increased frequency in ocean inundations during high tides and storms. In this 2016 file photo of Majuro Atoll, a photographer stands ankle deep in water as ocean water floods over the island and onto the main road in the foreground. Photo: Hilary Hosia

The Marshalls is the only Pacific Island country to have a leader participating in the summit, where he is advancing regional concerns about the need for more urgent action to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

The US Geological Survey recently projected that some of the Marshalls' low-lying islands would be submerged by 2035, while others will probably lack drinking water because their aquifers would be contaminated with saltwater.

As a result, Marshallese could be forced to relocate from their homeland.

However, Nemra said the Marshallese were there to stay.

Casten Nemra.

Casten Nemra. Photo: Supplied/Marshall Islands government

"Studies show that we've been here in the islands for the past two millenia. And we have every intent to stay here for the next two millenia," he said.

Let's put it that way. It's not an option for us to relocate or become so-called climate change refugees. It's comething we don't accept."

The minister said it was important for climate change deliberations at the United Nations and other multi-lateral organisations factor in the Marshall Islands' viewpoint.

Nemra said the suggestion that their nation should relocate was "degrading" and a violation of their wellbeing, as the islands were central to the identity of Marshallese.

"We're the people who have been residing in these respective islands, and we're here to stay," he said.

"The issue of climate change is a modern issue, and we have to come together and combat it, and deal with it accordingly, legally and morally. But we have no intention whatsoever to relocate ourselves."

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