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U.S. supports Pacific Island Forum climate agenda

MAJURO, Marshall Islands, Sept. 9 (UPI) -- U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, calling climate change a "challenge of our time," said the government backs an agenda adopted at a Pacific islands forum.

The Marshall Islands hosted international delegates at the gathering, which put climate issues at the forefront of its agenda.

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Warming trends have led to declining polar ice levels, elevating sea levels and subsequently threatening low-lying regions such as Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

Leaders from the Pacific islands community last week issued the 12-page Majuro Declaration calling for urgent action on climate issues. The declaration will be presented to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this month.

"The responsibility of all to act falls to every government, every company, every organization and every person with the capacity to do so, both individually and collectively," it says.

The United States is among the leading economies reluctant to sign on to multilateral climate treaties. Jewell, however, said the U.S. government lends its support to the Majuro Declaration.

"Climate change is a defining challenge of our time," she said in a statement Friday. "From high rates of sea level rise to increased frequency of droughts and intensity of storms, the Pacific islands are at the tip of the spear."

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The U.S. Interior Department has oversight of federal programs and funds Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau.

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