By Pita Ligaiula at COP28 in Dubai, UAE

Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr has emphasised the need for urgent action to protect the Pacific and the vital role of oceans in global health.

Speaking at the side event on Oceans, organised by the Office of Oceans Commissioner (OPOC) at the COP28 in Dubai which focused on accelerating the sea lane between COP28 and COP31, President Whipps Jr stressed the significance of the moment for the Pacific region.

“To me telling the world this is what the Pacific is committing to even though we are the ones that suffer the most from the world’s addiction to fossil fuels. We are taking action. The action we are taking is not just for the benefit of our people but for the benefit of the planet.”

President Whipps Jr stressed the Pacific’s commitment to unlocking the ‘blue Pacific’ and demonstrating a dedication to ocean protection.

He highlighted the region’s determination to develop resilient food systems that benefit the population.

“The action we are taking is about our children; we need the world to understand that we are all connected, and we need them to take the same action,” President Whipps said.

Observing that the ocean often takes a back seat in global discussions, President Whipps Jr pointed out the need to change perceptions.

He expressed concern that the ocean is often viewed as a “rubbish dump” rather than a crucial component of the planet’s health.

“It’s great to hear President Macron give US$100 million to PNG for the lungs of the planet, but the oceans produce 50 percent. That’s the other half of the lung that needs to be addressed,” President Whipps said.

Looking ahead to COP31, expected to be held in Australia, President Whipps Jr emphasised the importance of bringing attention to the Pacific, which is among the most vulnerable regions to climate change impacts.

“In Palau, we suffer from jellyfish disappearing, coral bleaching that also impacts our tourism and our food source. This is what we are already experiencing,” he explained.

President Whipps Jr sent a clear message about the urgency of protecting biodiversity and adopting nature-based solutions.

He called for international partnerships and investments to address the challenges facing the oceans.

“When we talk about the sea lane between COP28 and COP31, it’s about bringing attention to the ocean, showing the world that this is how the ocean can continue to keep the planet healthy, and these are what we are doing,” he said.

President Whipps Jr also urged global cooperation to raise awareness about the importance of protecting oceans, emphasising that a healthy ocean is crucial for a healthy planet.

Former Fiji’s Ambassador to the UN, Satyendra Prasad who moderated the Blue Pacific and Ecuador/Costa Rica dialogue on Ocean and Climate Change today said, “To lose 1.5 is as good as gas lighting the Blue Pacific”.

“Under no beyond 1.5 scenario can Ocean provide this level of hope in our climate struggle,” Ambassador Prasad said.