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“The Fossil Fuel Era Must Draw to a Close”: A Message from the Marshall Islands to the World

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One of the most passionate speeches of the opening day of the U.N. climate change conference in Paris was delivered by Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak. Thousands of residents from the Marshall Islands have already fled the Pacific Island state, becoming climate change refugees because of rising sea levels. Loeak urged world leaders to end the fossil fuel era. “For us, COP21 must be a turning point in history,” Loeak says, “and one that gives us hope.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: One of the most passionate speeches of the opening day of the U.N. climate change conference here in Paris was delivered by the Marshall Islands president, Christopher Loeak. Thousands of residents from the Marshall Islands have already fled the Pacific Island state, becoming climate refugees. Loeak urged world leaders to end the fossil fuel era.

PRESIDENT CHRISTOPHER LOEAK: Everything I know and everyone I love is in the hands of all of us gathered here today. The climate we have known over many centuries has, in a matter of three short decades, changed dramatically before our very eyes. We are already limping from climate disaster to climate disaster, and we know there is worse to come.

For us, COP21 must be a turning point in history and one that give us hope. Our Paris agreement must set a path for the safe climate future we all strive for. We all know, and much acknowledge, that the targets on the table now are not enough to limit warming to below 1.5 degrees, although they are a start in the right direction. Therefore, if it is to deliver the end we all seek, the Paris agreement must be designed for ambition.

It must send a message to the world that if we are to win the battle against climate change, the fossil fuel era must draw to a close, to be replaced by a clean, green energy future, free of the carbon pollution that is harming our health, stunting our growth and suffocating our planet. It must set a rhythm for our action that sees us ratcheting up our national targets every five years. And it must assure countries as vulnerable as mine that the world’s helping hand will be there when climate change, unfortunately and unavoidably, unleashes its devastating impacts.

AMY GOODMAN: Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak, speaking here in Paris at the U.N. climate summit. When we come back, we’ll speak with two climate negotiators who have taken their struggle to the streets. Stay with us.

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“The Paris Agreement Will See the Planet Burn”: Former Bolivian Climate Negotiator Pablo Solón

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