COP21: The Pacific countries that need the Paris 1.5C temperature rise agreement to 'stay alive'

The Marshall Islands are already seeing the effects of rising sea levels - with the graves of islanders' loved ones being washed away by the encroaching waves

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The Independent Online

The Marshall Islands - a tiny group of over 1,000 islands spread over 29 atolls in Micronesia - is potentially the country with the most to lose if the draft deal on climate change crumbles in Paris on Saturday.

The island chain has a population of just over 70,000 and is just two metres above sea level. 

Experts believe the Marshall Islanders will eventually need to be evacuated which would make them the first in a predicted wave of environmental refugees. 

The country’s foreign minister Tony de Brum is leading the charge against climate change by a coalition of other island nations which are highly at risk. 

Marshall Islands foreign minister Tony de Brum has been campaigning to save his country

Speaking to US radio station NPR while en route to the Paris climate change talks he said the Marshall Islands needed global temperatures not to rise beyond 1.5C “to stay alive”.

He said: "Anything over 2 degrees is a death warrant for us. It means the sea level will rise above ... our level of the islands. It means the islands go under."

Mr de Brum has been an active campaigner against climate change and tweeted a picture of his 10th grandchild on Saturday as the draft deal was first announced - saying he was campaigning to secure his future:

One 18-year-old resident,  Selina Leem, who was part of the Marshall Islands delegation to the Paris conference said she had already seen the islands changing dramatically in her short life.  

She told NPR seawalls have been destroyed, coconut trees she climbed as a child are gone and the graves of deceased loved ones are being washed away. 

Ms Leem now fears she and her family will be forced to leave their home. 

Over in Tuvalu - home to 11,000 people and 4.5 metres above sea level - climate change is already having a sudden and dramatic effect on the country and its economy. 

Earlier this year, Cyclone Pam ripped across the island chain destroying 95 per cent of the country’s agricultural sector. 

President Enele Sosense Spoaga visited Brussels in July to drum up support for the 1.5C proposal at the Paris talks.

He told journalists: “We need to save Tuvalu to save the world.

 “If this island disappears under water, it is not the end of climate change. And I ask you what future do we hold? We need to collaborate as one human face to save human kind.”