‘We don’t have higher ground’

Part of the Marshall Islands team at the COP27 global climate summit in Egypt this week. From left: Clarence Samuel, Tina Stege, Bernadette Kabua, Angeline Heine-Reimers, and Ben Wakefield.

This week’s global climate summit in Egypt must be more than a public relations exercise, Marshall Islands Climate Envoy Tina Stege told Sky News in an interview over the weekend.

Climate is “very much front and center for us,” Stege said. “It’s an existential issue. We don’t accept a future in which we have no future. It’s for that reason that we are here at COP making the case and fighting for our future.”

The Conference of the Parties (COP27) started Sunday and will run for nearly two weeks.

Stege said the Marshall Islands is already grappling with the seriousness of sea level rise for atoll populations. “We are having to think about when people may need to move to other islands, to higher ground — which, by the way, we don’t have,” she said.

“Every COP needs to be a success for the entire world,” Stege said. “It can’t be a PR exercise. I wouldn’t be here if I thought that that’s all this was.”

Asked about funding for adaptation, the big issue for many nations, Stege replied: “We need this process to deliver — immediately. We have no time to lose. We’re already engaged in adaptation planning, already having to look at very difficult decisions: Where people might have to go and what the future might look like. We’re already doing the work.”

The RMI is a member of the High Ambition Coalition and is supporting efforts to get other countries to step-up their climate responses, she said. “A very big part of the decision at COP in Glasgow last year — was telling our story and having people understand the gravity of our situation. We were so happy when developed countries came forward with that commitment to double adaptation funding. What we need now is delivery. We need to see when promises are made, pledges are made, those promises are kept and pledges delivered on. That is what builds trust and success in this business.”

Stege believes past COPs have laid important groundwork for greater action to reduce the impact of climate change.

“The COPs have produced some real and significant progress,” she said. “The commitment to 1.5 is there because we’ve engaged with this process. The recognition that adaptation needs are significant and need more financing — that happened because we engaged in this process. The signal to the world that, in fact, renewables are the basis for a secure and safe future for all of us — that happened because of this process.

“This process is what we have and it could be a lot better. We need much more action that is accelerated. But it is a process that gives countries like mine that are small and that are on the front of the front lines a voice. If there wasn’t a COP I wouldn’t be sitting her and explaining to you how important this is and how important it is that the world as a whole responds to a global crisis in a global manner.

“It is not a PR exercise for us, and it shouldn’t be a PR exercise for anyone else.”


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