Marshall Islands first nation to submit new, binding climate targets

LONDON (Reuters) - The Marshall Islands is the first country to submit new, binding climate targets to the United Nations this week, sending a signal to other countries to commit to more ambitious emissions cuts, a government statement reviewed by Reuters shows.

In 2015, nearly 200 nations pledged in Paris to limit the rise in global temperatures to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), and ideally to 1.5C, with a sweeping goal of ending the fossil fuel era this century.

“Although vulnerable countries like mine will be hit first and hit hardest by the impacts of rising global temperatures, we do not see ourselves as victims,” said Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine.

“We believe in leading from the front. If we can raise the ambition of our climate action then so can other countries – and so must other countries,” she added.

To achieve that, each country had to submit national targets to reduce emissions and adapt to climate change. However, current government pledges in the Paris Agreement are too weak to limit warming and more ambitious action is needed.

Therefore, countries have to submit new or updated pledges by 2020 to the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and then every five years after that so that deeper emissions cuts can be achieved.

The Marshall Islands, an atoll nation vulnerable to sea level rise from climate change, is the first country to submit two new pledges to reduce emissions by at least 32 percent by 2025 below 2010 levels and by at least 45 percent by 2030.

The words “at least” signal that the country intends to over-achieve on these targets, the statement says.

There is also a third, indicative target to cut emissions by at least 58 percent by 2035 from 2010 levels, putting the Marshall Islands on track to achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral by the middle of the century.

The Marshall Islands has also committed to producing a national plan with steps to adapt to climate change impacts by the end of 2019.

Reporting by Nina Chestney, editing by Louise Heavens