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Hon. Kitlang Kabua

H.E. Ms Kitlang Kabua, - Minister of Education of the Marshall Islands and Chair of the Micronesian Center for Sustainable Transport.

Introductory Remarks - How Green Stimulus Measures Could Fuel the Decarbonization of Shipping

Iokwe and e-greetings to you all around this precious planet from the Marshall Islands.

It is my great pleasure to be with you today.  My sincere thanks to the organizers for stepping up in this unprecedented international crisis.  For making sure that while we are all focused on the pandemic and the economic aftershock, we do so fully cognizant of the much larger crisis we are also facing, the climate crisis. 

I’m honored to be asked to introduce this very critical session.  For the Marshall Islands, for all our Island states around the world, shipping is our very lifeline.   This pandemic has only reinforced for us just how critical a sector it is, more so in time of crisis. It drives home that we must insist the economic recovery that follows must focus and drive the transition to decarbonizing all major emitting sectors.

For countries such as mine, entirely dependent as we are on imported food, medicines, fossil fuels, – in fact – all essential goods of every kind, shipping  is our most important link with the world. Sitting as we do, micro-economies in the very center of the world’s greatest Ocean, we have the longest, thinnest, most expensive and the most vulnerable transport lines there are.  This lifeline is currently totally dependent on fossil fuels. We need to change this and we need to change this now. 

For the Marshall Islands, the issue is both a top down one and a bottom up one, and we are heavily invested in the transition to decarbonisation at both levels.

At the global level, our flag flies on some 9% of ships right across the world’s oceans. There is  a heavy duty on my government to be a leader in the International Maritime Organisation. We take this responsibility very seriously. We have been championing a coalition of high ambition countries from the Pacific and around the world calling for shipping to immediately begin all action needed to decarbonize consistent with a 1.5 degree target. Shipping is a major emitter; it must play its role alongside all other major emitters if we are to survive.

The IMO, its member states and the global industry is responding. But it must accelerate. As Christiana Figueres reminded us just last week – times up. We no longer have 50 years, or even ten years to make the critical and hard decisions. They need to be made now -  the response to Covid may be the world’s last chance to invest in a decarbonized global future. It is now time to begin the serious debate on a carbon tax for shipping at IMO.

This debate will not be an easy one. But as the late Tony de Brum was fond of telling you at Paris – “we don’t do easy”.  It is a debate that will test the maturity of both the IMO and the industry. The Marshall Islands is heavily invested – politically and commercially – and the role of the registries will be critical. But it doesn’t have to be an either/or debate. Responsible and ambitious decarbonisation must be a win- win not a zero-sum game.  It has to benefit the planet and the industry.

I was incredibly enheartened last week listening to the interview with BIMCO’s first woman president. Sadan Kapatanoglu is pledging her organization to continue shipping decarbonisation regardless of the pandemic and its aftershocks. Of course, with women at the helm, there is no limit to what we can collectively achieve.

And at the domestic level, it is critically important we continue our own measures to respond to both crises.  We cannot afford to be left behind, we must now also accelerate decarbonizing our own domestic shipping.

Again, the Marshall Islands is trying to show leadership. Of course, it is not a task we can undertake alone.  Working with leading international researchers from around the globe,  we have launched the Micronesian Center for Sustainable Transport as a Center of Excellence to drive a Pacific transition to low carbon shipping.   I want in particular to thank the international academy for coming so willingly to our support and of course the German government for responding so generously to our request to help make our Center a success.

Alongside with Fiji we have announced our own domestic target for shipping of 100% reduction in emissions by 2050, 40% of this by 2030.  Again with Fiji, we have established the Pacific Blue Shipping Partnership, a call for an immediate investment of $500 million in blended financing to catalyze real shipping transition in 8 Pacific islands states now. We need the help and partnership of the international community to make this happen at speed and scale. Please don’t leave us behind on this historic journey, we want to come with you, not behind you.

It’s all about partnerships. We are grateful to you Johannah and the Global Maritime Forum in inviting us to be a knowledge partner in the Getting to Zero Coalition, we will do all we can to participate  and I look forward to hearing more about this from the panel today. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, with these few remarks I’ll pass back to our moderator and I look forward with great interest to hearing from our esteemed panel.  Can I leave you with this message. Time is not our friend.  We cannot afford to take our eye off the long game. We need the highest ambition and we need the strongest partnerships.  The Marshall Islands is proudly committed to “Getting to Zero - leaving none behind”.