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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.


Pacific delegations and technical advisors at IMO Headquarters in London

[London, England, March 16, 2024] – In July 2023, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted a new climate strategy to phase out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Now member states need to agree on legally binding measures to turn that ambition into a realistic and predictable pathway that can ensure the investment in long-term solutions will happen as soon as possible.

Finding agreement on these measures is what was the key point of discussion Sixteenth Meeting of the Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships (ISWG-GHG 16). While there is only one year left before these measures should be adopted, not all states agree on what the best way forward is.

Three possible combinations emerged at ISWG-GHG16. With a clear majority supporting a levy in some form, the next round of negotiations will begin to clarify the details of each approach:

  • Fourteen countries favored a flexible fuel standard with a credit trading mechanism or Emission Trading System (ETS).
  • Eighteen countries advocated for a simplified fuel standard alongside a universal GHG price, such as a levy.
  • Sixteen countries supported a flexible fuel standard with a universal GHG pricing mechanism, including a levy.

All three options include putting a price on shipping emissions. But only the levy of $150 per tonne of GHG emissions will provide a strong economic incentive to speed up the transition, while generating revenue to fund an equitable transition as a by-product.

The pressure on all stakeholders, particularly the growing 6PAC+ coalition of Pacific Island countries, now joined by a growing coalition of Caribbean States, is immense as Dr. Tristan Smith, Director of University Maritime Advisory Services, highlighted the interconnected themes of climate action, energy transition, and equitable development as crucial for the shipping sector's sustainability. He commended the leadership demonstrated by diverse countries in proposing specific solutions.

The pressure on stakeholders, particularly the Pacific-Caribbean 6PAC+ coalition, comprising of Belize, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, is immense. They advocate for a combination of measures including a GHG Fuel Standard (GFS) and a universal GHG levy, emphasizing equitable revenue distribution and prioritizing the needs of developing countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Ahead of the ISWG GHG16, the 6PAC+ had submitted a formal proposal for a combination of measures comprising a GFS and a universal GHG levy, along with proposals on revenue distribution. The working group saw the significant development in the establishment of greenhouse gas intensity limits within the GFS, which will require increasingly stringent emissions reductions of fuels over time, in order to deliver on GHG reduction targets.

They continue to defend the combination of a GFS and universal GHG levy as the only one of the three proposals on the table that can actually deliver on a truly equitable global transition that leaves no state behind. Several additional countries have come out in support for these proposals during negotiations. The 6PAC+ also emphasized the need to apply the "polluter pays" principle to the IMO’s revenue distribution, directing funds towards both pollution mitigation at source and reparations for environmental impact.

Despite broad agreement on adopting both a GHG Fuel Standard and a carbon pricing mechanism, member states still hold highly divergent views on the detail of the measures and now face an increasing challenge in converting the ambitions of the IMO’s overall climate strategy to legally binding rules for ships and their users within a tight timeframe. Given the considerable sums involved in this ‘trillions transition’ now committed to, the stakes are high for all participants.

Dr Smith advises “It is hard to overstate the significance of what might be agreed in Spring 2025. The specifics of these policy measures will determine the ‘shape’ of international shipping, capital flows in the maritime value chains and have major implications for the economies of many countries and global trade”.

While ISWG-GHG 16 saw increased support for a price on global shipping emissions, this week the focus shifts to the Marine Environment Protect Committee (MEPC81). With only two more Committee meetings available before the IMO must confirm the full design of the measures in 2025, we can expect a long hard week of negotiations.

As the IMO continues navigating this intricate policy landscape, the growing Pacific-Caribbean 6PAC+ coalition remains steadfast in its commitment to steering the maritime industry towards a sustainable and equitable future for all States.


5 February 2024 - In July 2023, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) reached a significant milestone by agreeing to phase out GHG emissions by 2050 in the revised 2023 Strategy for GreenHouse Gas (GHG) reduction from shipping. This marks a pivotal moment in global efforts to combat climate change. However, while this agreement represents progress, much work remains to be done. The IMO is now preparing for crucial negotiations scheduled for March 2024, where the focus will be on developing legally-binding measures to give the 2023 Strategy real teeth.


A Just and Equitable Transition in the Shipping Industry

The UN Foundation and University College London (UCL)

December 8th (15.30-16.30)

Oceans Pavilion in the Blue Zone

Ambassador Albon's Keynote Speech at COP28

ambassador-albon-cop28-speechLadies and gentlemen, distinguished guests,

Today, I stand before you to share the ambitious vision of the Republic of the Marshall Islands—an island nation that has long been at the forefront of the global fight against climate change. Our ambition is clear: to achieve the 1.5-degree Celsius agenda, and in doing so, protect our fragile environment, our culture, and our very way of life.

The Marshall Islands is acutely aware of the existential threat that climate change poses to our existence. Rising sea levels, more intense storms, and changing weather patterns are not abstract concepts for us; they are our daily reality. We have witnessed the encroachment of the ocean on our shores, and we have felt the devastating impact of climate-related disasters. We are a Small Island Developing State, and we have no choice but to be at the forefront of this battle.

Our commitment to the 1.5-degree Celsius target is unwavering. We understand that limiting global warming to this level is not just a matter of policy; it is a matter of survival. To achieve this goal, we have put forward a bold initiative—the universal mandatory GHG levy for international shipping. This levy is our contribution to the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a more sustainable future.

Yet setting our emission reduction ambition alone is not enough. We must undertake this transition in a profoundly unequal world. We must therefore also be ambitious in our commitment to equity, and to ensuring that the profound transformation we are undertaking reverses, not entrenches, the current gaps between the developed and developing world.

What sets our approach apart is our unwavering commitment to an equitable transition. We understand that the burden of addressing climate change should not fall disproportionately on those who have contributed the least to the problem. Our levy is designed to be equitable, ensuring that the responsibility for addressing climate change is shared by all, with the heaviest burdens carried by those who can most afford it.

We are advocating for an Equitable Transition that leaves no one behind. What this means is that:

  1. The transition should be procedurally fair. Developing countries and particularly SIDS and LDCs need to be at the table when these decisions are made.
  2. The transition should be equitable in terms of maritime mitigation. The research, development and deployment of fuels, technologies and infrastructure for zero-emission shipping on a Well-to-Wake basis should allow all States to access to strategic and sustainable development opportunities in the new energy and fuels markets created by the transition.
  3. The transition should be equitable in terms of responding to climate impacts. Shipping emissions have caused, are causing, and will continue to cause climate impacts. The polluter pays principle therefore requires that the majority of any revenues generated from pricing GHG emissions should be directed to addressing those climate impacts in developing countries, particularly SIDS and LDCs.

Equity, in our view, is not just a matter of economic fairness; it is a matter of justice. It means leaving no one behind. It means recognizing that the most vulnerable among us—those in marginalized communities, those on the frontlines of climate impacts—must be supported and protected as we embark on this global journey toward sustainability.

We will use the revenue generated from this levy to invest in clean energy solutions, to strengthen our resilience against climate impacts, and to support those in our society who need it most. We will ensure that our transition to a low-carbon economy creates jobs, empowers our people, and enhances our overall well-being.

We must acknowledge the unique situations in each of our countries. Some of us are perfectly situated for low-cost green hydrogen production, but we face the threat of more affluent nations leveraging their economic strength to dominate the global market. Economic development is vital for some of us, as it sustains a functional global trade system, while for others, it is the linchpin for maintaining a basic standard of living. Additionally, some of us heavily rely on shipping for essential tourism income and opportunities

We need all of this to happen with urgency.  For the levy to be effective it needs to have an ambitious entry price. Too low and we send the wrong signals, one that enables only a partial transition to intermediate fuels. When we proposed this levy at MEPC76 we called for an entry price of $100/ton/CO2- eq - if the levy was operational by 2025.  Now that the IMO has determined not to act before 2027, that price must increase if we are to achieve the necessary ambition. Which is why I am announcing our intention to now call for an entry price of $150/tonne at MEPC81. It is time to stop the ambiguity around defining these measures, it is time to take determined action.

In this endeavor, we call on the international community to stand with us. We ask for your partnership, your support, and your commitment to a more sustainable and equitable world. Our challenge is global, and it requires a global response.

Together, we can achieve the 1.5-degree Celsius agenda. Together, we can protect our planet for future generations. Together, we can ensure that no one is left behind. Our vision is ambitious, but our determination is unwavering. The Republic of the Marshall Islands is ready to lead the way, and we invite you to join us on this historic journey toward a brighter, more sustainable future.

Kommol Tata

"Our commitment to the 1.5-degree Celsius target is not just policy—it's a matter of survival!"

Ambassador Albon delivered a powerful speech at "A Just and Equitable Transition in a Shipping Industry" side event during COP28, where he laid out Republic of the Marshall Islands ambitious vision for combating climate change.

RMI led with a bold initiative—a GHG levy for international shipping. A move that will contribute significantly to the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, showing that every nation must play a role in building a sustainable future.

The revenue generated from the levy will be invested in clean energy solutions, resilience against climate impacts, and supporting vulnerable communities. Their vision includes job creation, empowerment, and overall well-being for their people.

Ambassador Albon called on the international community to join hands in this global endeavor. "The challenge is immense, and a collective response is required. Let's stand together, support the Marshall Islands, and work towards a more sustainable and equitable world.", he said.

His vision is ambitious, but the determination is unwavering. RMI is ready to lead the way, and they invite the international community to join this historic journey toward a brighter, more sustainable future. #COP28 #Sustainability