G20 nations have a crucial role to play in emission reduction and leading the path towards sustainable development, Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr told the General Debate of the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“We urgently call on the G20 nations, responsible for 80 percent of global carbon emissions, to uphold their commitments to the Paris Agreement and limit warming to 1.5 degrees. This is crucial to mitigate climate change impacts like disappearing islands and unhatched turtle eggs.

“We also urge the UN to simplify access to multilateral funds for SIDS and other vulnerable communities, promoting a faster transition. We call on the international community to work with SIDS to increase access to climate finance,” President Whipps told World leaders.

However, we must ensure that commitments pledged here are acted upon and not forgotten, he said.

“Ng ko er a teribsel a daob.” Let’s not be like the foam riding on the waves of the ocean, drifting without settling. This Palauan saying refers to meetings where much is said but afterwards there is no action.

Despite these challenges, the Palau President acknowledged the progress that has been made and those opposed deep-sea mining.

“COP26 in Glasgow and COP27 in Sharm-al-Sheik were successful, leading to green domestic policies in some of the world’s largest economies.

“We appreciate those opposing deep-sea mining, which has been delayed, allowing for further studies. Proponents argue seabed minerals aid renewable transition, but we lack knowledge about potential impacts on underwater ecosystems. Disturbing the ocean bed could release stored carbon dioxide, contradicting climate change efforts. We advocate for a global deep-sea mining moratorium, adhering to the UN Convention on The Law of the Sea’s precautionary principle.

On a positive note, Palau will sign the BBNJ Instrument tomorrow (Wednesday NY Time),” President Whipps said.

“Universal participation is crucial, especially from developed countries that can provide implementation means and engage in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction activities. This moment signifies global unity in protecting high seas biodiversity.

President Whipps said climate change is the most significant challenge to Palau progress towards achieving Sustainable Development.

“The impacts are evident in our coastal areas, agricultural lands, marine resources, cultural heritage, and livelihoods. Assistance in mitigating and adapting to these impacts is crucial for our continued progress and survival.

“In my youth, I’d spearfish on the reef with my father, helping to provide for our family. There was one remote island in Palau’s southern waters where we would go. It was alive with birds, turtles, fish, and clams. Recently, I revisited this island with my children, witnessing turtles laying eggs.

The island had diminished by two-thirds due to sea-level rise. Sadly, half of the turtle eggs laid were in the tidal zone, unlikely to survive. This heart-wrenching reality mirrors the fate of our homes and cultures if we fail to take decisive action,” President Whipps told world leaders in New York.