Marshall Islands' Second National Communication
The creation of a National Communication offers countries the opportunity to contribute with technically sound studies and information that can be used for designing mitigation and adaptation measures, and project proposals that can and will help increase their resilience to the impacts of climate change. Activities generally include: V&A assessments, Greenhouse Gas Inventory preparation, Mitigation Analysis or Education, and awareness raising activities. The ultimate goal is the integration of climate change considerations into relevant social, economic and environmental policies and actions.
Overall, the most appropriate and effective adaptation measures and strategies are most likely to be those that will be beneficial even in the absence of climate and sea-level change. Such measures and strategies could be considered as “no regrets” adaptation options. Therefore, in the first instance, the capacity of the Marshall Islands to adapt to the effects of climate and sea-level change will largely be determined by its ability to address on-going environmental, social and economic problems. Adaptation includes three main types of activities. First, there are adaptive actions that include activities targeted at specific sectors where climate change effects have been identified. Second, another group of adaptive measures are equally important and include general policies and actions by government to address some of the social driving forces of environmental problems which will heighten vulnerability to climate change effects. Third, it is also important to increase the capabilities of the Marshall Islands to effectively implement adaptations.
The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) are located off the northeast coast of New Zealand, scattered in an archipelago consisting of two roughly parallel island chains. There are twenty nine atolls and five reefs without lagoons which are made up of about 1,225 islands and 870 reef systems. Twenty-two of the atolls and four of the islands are inhabited. The atolls extend about 700 miles (1130km) north to south, and about 800 miles (1290km) east to west. While some of the islands are several kilometers long they rarely exceed a few hundred meters in width and are often considerably narrower. Land elevations are very low, with a mean height above sea level of only two meters (7 feet). The combination of small land areas and low land elevations contributes to the ecological vulnerability in the Republic. There is concern that any change in sea-level could seriously upset the fragile balance between the land and the sea. The RMI consist of fragments of Islands or low Lying Atoll Courtesy of MIVA. Isolated by ocean, the Republic is more than 2,000 miles (3230km) from the nearest trading centers, Honolulu and Tokyo. Geographically, the RMI’s nearest neighbors are Kiribati to the south and the Federated States of Micronesia to the west. The Republic’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) encompasses over 750,000 square miles (1.2 million sq km) of the Central Pacific. Subsistence agriculture and fishing are the country’s main industry; the tourism industry makes a noteworthy contribution along with development funds from the United States.
- Institutional strengthening, such as by ensuring that governmental departments are adequately structured and equipped with appropriate skills and tools, and are capable of delivering an integrated response to the challenges arising from climate change and accelerated sea level rise.
- Project management and operational training for all stakeholders involved in climate change programs and the implementation of adaptation projects.
- Accurate documentation of baseline conditions from which to measure climate induced changes to the shorelines, reef and island ecosystem and affected settlements and communities.
- Research capacity needs to be strengthened by ensuring adequate support at the professional and technical levels, and by providing financial support for baseline bio-physical and socioeconomic environmental research, monitoring changes to environmental conditions and implementing adaptation measures.
- Appropriate systems are needed for spatial and other data generated through vulnerability assessments, monitoring programs,
integrated coastal zone management planning and the implementation of adaptation projects.
Confidence and capacity building programs are needed for government departments, members of local councils and nongovernment organizations.
Community awareness and education programs.
Proactive participation in international forums and meetings are needed with the aim of continuing to keep the issues confronting small island states, when they are responding to climate change.
- Land Use and Planning: amendment of land use planning policies to include adaptations to climate change.
- Environment and Natural Resources: amendment of environmental and natural policies to include adaptations to climate change.
- Natural Hazard Management: amendment of natural hazard management policies to include adaptations to climate change.
- Administration and Management: initiation of administrative arrangements and management policies to deal with the core sectoral concerns in terms of water resources, coastal resources, agricultural resources, marine resources and human health.
- Human Health: Development of a comprehensive suite of human health policies to address water borne diseases and other sicknesses that are related to climate-induced change.
- Solid and Liquid Waste Management: Provide broad management policies for domestic solid waste and discharges of liquid effluent including consideration of a strategy to convert solid domestic and some industrial wastes to saleable energy.
- Foreign Affairs: Enhancement of foreign policy frameworks.
- Center of Excellence: establish a Centre of Excellence to expand the role of the Marshall Islands in the international as well as national issues of climate change.
- Technology Exchange: technology exchange policies to address applied research and monitoring (information management).
More recently Marshall Islands developed the RMI Climate Change Roadmap 2010 as a national framework for their climate change and sustainable development efforts. With respect to adaptation, actions identified by the Marshall Islands Government included: the implementation of a Micronesia Challenge and Reimaanlok Action Plan; planning and interventions to address vulnerability in food security, public health and other social development areas; and protection and maintenance of key infrastructure and resources through planning and inter-agency coordination (FSF, 2010).
Current Adaptation Action
- Dohan, Rosemary; Hove, Hilary; Echeverría, Daniella; Hammill, Anne, Parry, Jo-Ellen. (2011) “Review of Current and Planned Adaptation Action: The Pacific.” Adaptation Partnership/International Institute for Sustainable Development, pp.82 - 88.
- Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] (2011). The World Factbook: Marshall Islands. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/rm.html
- Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] (2000). Marshall Islands. Initial Communication under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Retrieved from http://unfccc.int/essential_background/library/items/3599.php?rec=j&priref=3433#beg
- Fast Start Finance [FSF] (2011). Marshall Islands. Retrieved from http://www.faststartfinance.org/recipient_country/marshall-islands
- Plume, H. (2002). Pacific Islands Climate Change Assistance Programme (PICCAP): New Zealand’s involvement. Presentation made to the UNFCCC CGE Workshop, 8 to 10 August 2002. Retrieved from http://unfccc.int/files/meetings/workshops/other_meetings/application/pdf/new_zealand.pdf
Key Results and Outputs
- Sustainable development and the integration of climate change concerns into medium- and long-term planning
- Inventories of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases
- Measures contributing to addressing climate change
- Research and systematic observation
- Climate change impacts, adaptation measures and response strategies
- Education, training and public awareness
Potential Adaptation Measures:
Agriculture and Food Security
- Switch to different cultivars
- Develop new crops
- Increase water supply, e.g. by using groundwater, building reservoirs, improving or stabilizing watershed management, desalination
- Decrease water demands, e.g. by increasing efficiency, reducing water losses, water recycling, changing irrigation practices
Coastal Zones and Marine Ecosystems
- Develop planning/new investment requirements
- Protect, including building sea walls, and beach nourishment
Monitoring and Evaluation
In 1992, countries joined an international treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to cooperatively consider what they could do to limit average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and to cope with whatever impacts were, by then, inevitable.
Parties to the Convention must submit national reports on implementation of the Convention to the Conference of the Parties (COP). The required contents of national communications and the timetable for their submission are different for Annex I and non-Annex I Parties. This is in accordance with the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" enshrined in the Convention.
The core elements of the national communications for both Annex I and non-Annex I Parties are information on emissions and removals of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and details of the activities a Party has undertaken to implement the Convention. National communications usually contain information on national circumstances, vulnerability assessment, financial resources and transfer of technology, and education, training and public awareness.
Since 1994, governments have invested significant time and resources in the preparation, collection and validation of data on GHG emissions, and the COP has made determined efforts to improve the quality and consistency of the data, which are ensured by established guidelines for reporting. Non-Annex I Parties receive financial and technical assistance in preparing their national communications, facilitated by the UNFCCC secretariat.