By Pita Ligaiula at COP28 in Dubai, UAE
Palau’s President Surangel S Whipps Jr Friday delivered a powerful message emphasising the urgent need for global unity and concrete actions to combat the climate crisis.
Addressing the distinguished audience, including COP28 President Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber and UNFCCC Executive Secretary Simon Stiell at the at the COP28 plenary in Dubai, President Whipps expressed gratitude for the hospitality of His Highness Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and emphasised the significance of the conference with its record-breaking participation.
President Whipps highlighted the unique challenges faced by Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like Palau, emphasising their minimal contribution to global emissions but disproportionate suffering from the climate crisis, which he referred to as an ocean crisis.
“Our ocean feeds us, protects us, and defines us. We must protect it in return,” stated President Whipps.
He announced Palau’s commitment, alongside the Pacific family, to manage 100 percent of their ocean and protect at least 30 percent, stressing the global benefits of a healthy ocean.
Drawing on Palauan wisdom, President Whipps introduced the concept of ‘bul,’ emphasizing the importance of pausing harvesting to allow the ocean to heal.
He shared a success story of the bumphead parrot fish, demonstrating the positive impact of conservation efforts on marine ecosystems.
President Whipps called for global respect for nature’s limits, highlighting the consequences of disregarding these boundaries—floods, droughts, heat, famine, and death.
Urging the mobilisation of at least US$100 billion annually to support the most vulnerable, he reiterated the need for accessible funding that doesn’t burden nations with additional debt.
In a notable mention, President Whipps acknowledged the Republic of China — Taiwan’s efforts in climate change mitigation and adaptation.
He commended Taiwan’s direct financing initiatives to build sea walls, shelters, and infrastructure, along with their environmentally conscious culture and contributions from private sector partners like O’right.
President Whipps joined other nations in calling for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty (FFNPT), envisioning it as a global framework for an equitable phase-out of fossil fuels and a transition to renewable energy.
Drawing on a Palauan legend of the two-headed eel, President Whipps conveyed a powerful message of interconnectedness.
“We are sovereign countries; however, we share one planet. We are stronger together, and like the two-headed eel, we must unite, act, and deliver to keep 1.5 alive!” he concluded, urging global collaboration and action to address the critical challenges posed by the climate crisis.