On the Occasion of the Nobel Prize Summit “Our Planet, Our Future”
April 26-28th 2021
EVIDENCE OF URGENCY: An Island Nation’s Call to Action AS DELIVERED
Nobel Prize Summit YouTube Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M0LfL51NnRk
Kaselehlie! My name is David W. Panuelo, and I am the ninth President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). I bring you warm greetings from our beautiful islands.
At the outset, I would like to express our Government’s recognition, appreciation, and endorsement of the recent United Nations Environment Program Report entitled “Making Peace with Nature.” Readers will find the report surprisingly accessible for all age groups, with simple language making it clear that Climate Change is an existential threat—arguably a bigger global challenge than any World War—but that we can make peace with nature if we take actions today, today, TODAY, and not tomorrow, next week, or next year.
I would also like to express my gratitude to Sir David Attenborough for opening the Nobel Prize Summit. I wish to make it known, very much on the record, that the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia has seen, and endorses, Sir Attenborough’s latest documentary entitled “A Life on Our Planet.” Viewers will find its contents educational, and both intellectually and emotionally rewarding.
To emphasize how strongly our Government fully endorses Sir Attenborough’s latest documentary, I would like to share with you one of its many powerful and moving quotes. Sir Attenborough says: “The living world is a unique and spectacular marvel, yet the way we humans live on Earth is sending it into a decline. This film is my witness statement and my vision for the future. The story of how we came to make this our greatest mistake. How, if we act NOW, we can yet put it right.”
What Sir Attenborough has said, right there, is precisely what I want to say, and will attempt to convey as I describe what Climate Change means for our country, and what we urge the global community to do next.
As of April 2021, the Federated States of Micronesia is comprised of 607 islands, totaling approximately 700 square kilometers of land and more than 2.2 million square kilometers of ocean territory. We are a Big Ocean State. My native Pohnpei, which you see around me, is our largest island, with mountains, rivers, and waterfalls. Here you can see that this is Paradise in Our Backyards, but it is threatened. You see, the great bulk of our land area consists of highly vulnerable low atolls that are approximately one to five meters above sea level. Our people have lived and prospered on these islands for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.
The FSM’s climate is tropical, and our islands are located on the southern edge of the typhoon belt. Under current conditions, our primary extreme events are droughts, typhoons, floods, landslides, eroding shorelines, and king tides. The western Micronesian states lie in the most active tropical cyclone basin in the world.
The Global Climate Risk Index assesses the FSM as the third-most at-risk country amongst Pacific Island Countries. Impacts of Climate Change are already being seen today. In some islands, that means increased rainfall; in others, it means very little rain at all. As the seas rise, protective coral reefs are overwhelmed, and storms become stronger. If we are 607 islands today, untold numbers will disappear by the end of the century—unless Climate Change can be overcome by the nations that caused it. This reality is very profound and frightening.
For the FSM, Climate Change is our single greatest security threat. Part of the answer to this threat is that the world must transition to sustainable and renewable energy. Fossil fuels are not only unsustainable—they are the enemy of our Climate. If our World is to fulfill its commitments under the Paris Agreement, and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, nations must make a unified and global effort. Through the Montreal Protocol, an international commitment, 98% of Ozone Depleting Substances have been phased out by the global community. Furthermore, under the recent Kigali Amendment to the Protocol, which the FSM sponsored, especially powerful greenhouse gases known as HFC’s, which are used as refrigerants, will be phased out. We can succeed if we work together. It is both possible, and essential, to improve our quality of life while we are also responsible stewards of our Planet.
Global solidarity and cooperation are essential. At the opening of the 75th United Nations General Assembly, I called upon the United States of America, with whom we share an Enduring Partnership, and the People’s Republic of China, with whom we share a Great Friendship, to put aside their political differences and work together to tackle Climate Change. It is with appreciation that I note the recent development of a Climate Change Working Group developed between our American and Chinese partners and friends. The next step is for the whole of the United Nations’ Security Council to recognize the threat of Climate Change, to show leadership in this key area, and to work collectively to address it with all of the nations of the world.
I have often said that a better world is not something we ask for, but that a better world is something we build. We build a better world through consensus, with a foundation of love and empathy for other human beings. We construct a better world by acknowledging that we are who we choose to be, and then choosing to take responsibility for both ourselves and our communities.
For Big Ocean States like the FSM, Climate Change is both our greatest security threat, and also an opportunity for us to collectively build that better World. For those of you attending this Nobel Prize Summit wondering what it is that you can do, right now, to help build that better World, I offer this solution: promote peace, friendship, cooperation, and love in our common humanity to all whom you meet. Really, my friends, it is only by pursuing these ideals that we also can make peace with nature, become good ancestors for our future generations, and take actions today for our global prosperity tomorrow.