Hon. Tony de Brum, Ambassador for Climate The Republic of the Marshall Islands
The Honorable Tony de Brum, current Ambassador for Climate for the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), has been one of the strongest and most compelling global voices for nuclear disarmament and climate-change mitigation, dedicating a lifetime of public service to the pursuit of an independent, secure, and sustainable Marshall Islands and making immeasurable differences in the lives of his people as well as other vulnerable communities around the world. Born in 1945, Ambassador de Brum grew up on the island of Likiep during the 12-year period from 1946 to 1958, when the United States conducted 67 atomic and thermonuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands. As a nine-year-old, Mr. de Brum witnessed the ‘Bravo shot’ at Bikini Atoll, the largest-ever US nuclear test that produced an explosion 1,000 times more powerful than Hiroshima – a formative experience which directed Mr. de Brum’s subsequent tireless efforts to pursue redress and justice for radiation victims.
In 1968, Mr. de Brum became one of the first Marshall Islanders to graduate from university. He went on to play a leading role in the Marshall Islands’ independence effort, negotiating the Compact of Free Association with the United States, as well as developing the island nation’s first Constitution and ensuring its membership in the United Nations. Since entering politics in 1983, Mr. de Brum has fought to help his country to cope with the legacy of U.S. nuclear testing, including filing the landmark “Nuclear Zero” lawsuits in 2014 in the International Court of Justice against the nine nuclear weapon states, and a separate case in U.S. courts seeking to compel the U.S. to negotiate in good faith towards nuclear disarmament. In recognition of his efforts at home and abroad, Mr. de Brum was awarded the 2012 Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Distinguished Peace Leader Award. In 2015, Minister de Brum was also recognized with the Nuclear Free Future Award and the Right Livelihood’s ‘Alternative Nobel’ Prize for his work on nuclear disarmament. In 2016, Mr. de Brum was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize itself. In addition to his work on nuclear justice, Ambassador de Brum has emerged as a leading international voice on the existential threat posed by climate change to the RMI and other low-lying atoll countries, as well as the benefits of an accelerated transition to the low-carbon economy. As former Minister-in Assistance to the President and as former Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2012 to 2016, Mr. de Brum helped build the diplomatic case for an ambitious Paris Agreement on Climate Change, spearheading a ‘High Ambition Coalition’ during the COP21 negotiations, while continuing to champion the cause of nuclear disarmament. Building on the RMI’s powerful example of converting 95 percent of its outer island communities to solar electricity, Mr. de Brum has become a leading voice for the transformational potential of Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion technology, including a proposal to power Kwajalein Atoll. He has been instrumental in securing the commitment of other island states to adopt measures to combat climate change. In February 2013, Mr. de Brum was invited to address the United Nations Security Council on the security implications of climate change, including the threats posed to the territorial integrity and long term viability of small island states. In September 2013, he hosted a distinguished international ‘Panel of Experts on Climate Leadership’ as the key lead-up event to the RMI’s hosting of the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Meeting, at which island leaders adopted the groundbreaking Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership. The Declaration was later handed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as “a Pacific gift” to the Secretary-General’s efforts to build political momentum towards a new global climate agreement in 2015.