"It is not too late for the US to reverse this course of action on climate change..." says Mr Charles Paul (from the Embassy of the Republic of the Marshall Islands to the US), in his testimony before the United States House of Representatives Sub-committee on Asia, Pacific and the Global Environment in February this year. This comes at a time when some small islands are exploring various political and even legal avenues for tangible action on climate change.
Whilst he recognised the positive role the US has played in advancing a number of globally important issues in the past, he expressed deep frustration that despite 120 separate Congressional bills which entailed discussions on climate change the matter remains unresolved. It is equally ironic that elements of the US Clean Air Act of 1990 inspired the Kyoto emissions trading mechanism. This plea for the US to take leadership is urgent especially when small islands like the Marshall islands increasingly face the impacts of sea level rise. What is happening in Tuvalu, may also occur there.
Is the US able to take a leadership role? Mr Paul is convinced they can, especially when the State of California, also the tenth largest economy in the world, decided to take voluntary measures to reduce greenhouse emissions since 2005.
"California will continue to be a leader in the fight against global warming and protecting our environment. Today I am establishing clear and ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in our state to protect our many natural resources, public health, agriculture and diverse landscape," said Governor Schwarzenegger. In his speech he focused on the opportunities that lie in moving towards a decarbonised economy. He subsequently established targets to reduce GHG emissions to 2000 levels by 2010; a reduction of GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020; and a reduction of GHG emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
It can be done and California has taken the bold economic step forward. It is the only way that the impasse which exists among countries in establishing mandatory emissions reductions may be conquered. Whilst the Marshall island people struggle to stay on the surface, the US should waste no time in taking the lead in achieving a global emissions reduction target.