THE world’s nations are once again gathering to debate the climate emergency.

Most can be sure to be back again if they cannot make progress this time around. But not all.

As presidents and prime minsters began COP25 talks in Madrid, the leader of one tiny Pacific nation says her country is in a “fight to the death”.

The Marshall Islands have long been considered one of the most vulnerable states on the planet.

Last week, five-metre high swells washed across its capital, Majuro. Its President, Hilda Heine, is literally facing rising tides which threaten the very existence of the chain of atolls.

Ms Heine said: “Water covers much of our land at one or other point of the year as we fight rising tides. As we speak, hundreds of people have evacuated their homes after large waves caused the ocean to inundate parts of our capital in Majuro last week.

“It’s a fight to the death for anyone not prepared to flee. As a nation we refuse to flee. But we also refuse to die.”

Other island nations face similar concerns. Ambassador Lois Young, from the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), took the opportunity to berate industrial nations for acting too slowly.

She said: “We are disappointed by inadequate action by developed countries and outraged by the dithering and retreat of one of the most culpable polluters from the Paris Agreement.

“In the midst of a climate emergency, retreat and inaction are tantamount to sanctioning ecocide. They reflect profound failure to honour collective global commitment to protect themost vulnerable.

“With our very existence at stake, COP 25 must demonstrate unprecedented ambition to avert ecocide.”

The COP 25 meeting will kick off talks to to conclude at a similar event in Glasgow this time next year. Small islands do not think they have the luxury of waiting for the Scottish round.

As we reported yesterday, UN secretary general Antonio Guterres has already said “the point of no return is no longer over the horizon”.

He said: “In the crucial 12 months ahead, it is essential that we secure more ambitious national commitments – particularly from the main emitters – to immediately start reducing greenhouse gas emissions at a pace consistent to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.

“We simply have to stop digging and drilling and take advantage of the vast possibilities offered by renewable energy and nature-based solutions.”

Around 200 nations are meeting for two weeks of talks in Madrid – the event had been planned for Santiago, Chile, but was moved because of unrest in the Latin American nation.

Chile’s environment minister Carolina Schmidt opened the summit by saying the meeting needs to lay the groundwork for moving towards carbon neutral economies. This was to be achieved while being sensitive to the poorest and those most vulnerable to rising temperatures – something that policymakers have termed “just transition”.

“Those who don’t want to see it will be on the wrong side of history”, said Ms Schmidt, as she called on governments to make more ambitious pledges to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases ahead of a deadline to do so next year.

The summit aims to put the finishing touches to the rules governing the 2015 Paris accord.

That involves creating a functioning international emissions-trading system and compensating poor countries for losses they suffer from rising sea levels and other consequences of climate change.

“We have a common challenge but with differentiated needs and urgencies, which we can only overcome if we work together,” said Ms Schmidt as her country took over the chairing of the meeting from Poland.

Organisers expect around 29,000 visitors to attend, including around 50 heads of state and government – but not Donald Trump.

Except for the European Union’s newly sworn-in leadership, which was due to begin a five-year term by paying a visit to the summit, the rest of the world’s largest carbon emitters – the United States, China and India – are sending ministerial or lower-level officials tothe meeting.

The US became a signatory to the landmark Paris climate agreement in April 2016 under the Obama administration. But President Trump has said the accord – which has been signed by more than 190 countries – would lead to lost jobs and lower wages forAmerican workers.

Last month, he began the process of withdrawing from the Paris deal.