At Ministerial Roundtable on the Margins of the U.S.-hosted Climate Summit, Secretary Yatilman Urges Special Envoy Kerry, and the World, to Tackle Short-Lived Climate Pollutants

PALIKIR, April 23rd 2021 (FSMIS)—On April 22nd, 2021, the Honorable Andrew R. Yatilman—Secretary of the Department of Environment, Climate Change, & Emergency Management (DECEM) of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)—spoke at the Ministerial Roundtable on the margins of the U.S.-hosted Climate Summit, which is expected to catalyze global action on Climate Change at a scale not seen since countries reached the Paris Agreement in 2015.
In his statement, Secretary Yatilman called for accelerating actions to slow temperature rise in order to avoid the catastrophic triggering of irreversible climate events; the Secretary specified that this goal can be achieved by taking fast action to make deep cuts in a category of potent greenhouse gases called “short-lived climate pollutants.”
The Secretary emphasized the urgent need for speed, and the proximity of a critical ten-year target. By focusing only on CO2 emissions, as perhaps too many countries have done to date, temperatures will surpass the 1.5-degree Celsius limit by 2030. Exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold will be devastating for island states, increasing extreme weather events and sea level rise that will erode coastlines and lead to saltwater intrusion. It will also escalate the risk of unpredictable feedback loops, tipping points, and cascading climate events, which will be catastrophic for all countries.
The FSM has long been an active voice in the international climate arena and has spearheaded important proposals, like the one that led to the Kigali Amendment of the Montreal Protocol. The Amendment, which will phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), the powerful greenhouse gases used mostly in refrigeration and air-conditioners, will help avoid up to 1-degree Celsius of potential warming if paired with energy efficiency measures.
Secretary Yatilman is a highly respected and seasoned voice in global climate discussions. His statement demonstrates the continued leadership of the FSM—a country that, despite its size and negligible contribution to the climate problem, has the valor to speak boldly and inspire others to redouble their effort to solve the climate emergency.
Citizens, residents, friends, and stakeholders of the FSM are encouraged to become acquainted with Secretary Yatilman’s remarks, which are below in full.
Statement by T.H. Andrew R. Yatilman
Secretary of the Department of Environment, Climate Change, & Emergency Management
On the Occasion of the Ministerial Roundtable on the Margins of the U.S.-hosted Climate Summit
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
I wish to thank the United States for their invitation to this important event and to recognize the extraordinary work that the Biden-Harris Administration is doing on climate change nationally and internationally. Your actions, in the few months you’ve been in office, demonstrate the commitment and leadership the world needs to slow climate change and keep the planet relatively safe for today and for the future. Because you have inherited a great debt of inaction, it is clear you are working twice as hard to make up for lost time. And in doing so, you are already inspiring many of us to even greater ambition, and even faster action. This may be the most important climate meeting since Paris, and much is riding on your success— and on the success of all the invited countries.
I am from a country of 607 beautiful islands spanning an area of over 1 million square miles of ocean in the northern Pacific — the Federated States of Micronesia. For the people of Micronesia, as for many island nations around the world, the future of climate change will determine the future of our very existence. We have inhabited our islands for over 4,000 years, and while we have lived through occupations, wars, and hardship, the climate crisis is the first time we are truly facing a threat to our survival as a people and a nation.
The next ten years are a race against the rising tide of climate change. As Special Climate Envoy Kerry has said, “2020 to 2030, must be the decade of action.” We have less than ten years to outpace the rapid advance of global warming with effective solutions. To do this, we need accelerated action at a scale never seen before. Like the swift global response we have seen to the COVID pandemic, but even greater, because the stakes with climate change are much, much higher.
Strategies to flatten the curve in emissions growth by 2050 will not save countries like Micronesia – nor will they save the lives of many people in larger, more resilient countries where wild fires, heat waves, floods, and storms will increasingly harm communities, devastate lives, and cripple economies.
Current commitments and plans are commendable, but they are insufficient.
They are failing because, although they may reduce emissions in the medium and long-term, they do not reduce the current, rapid rate of warming that will melt the Arctic and provoke destructive tipping points, cascades and feedback loops that we may never recover from — certainly Micronesia will not.
But there are viable solutions to reduce warming in the near-term that can help us speed ahead of the worst advances of climate change and buy time to transform the global economy. We must reduce short-lived climate pollutants quickly and at massive scale.
Solutions readily exist to cut the “super pollutant” emissions of methane, black carbon soot, tropospheric ozone, and also HFCs (the gases used in the expanding refrigeration and air conditioning sectors that are now controlled under the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol – a global agreement that Micronesia is proud to have helped inspire). We applaud China for their recent announcement to ratify the Kigali Amendment and urge all countries that have yet to ratify to do so. Full implementation of this agreement, paired with energy efficiency measures, could avoid up to 1 degree of warming – an extraordinary amount! — Joining forces to drastically cut methane emissions through a new treaty would also halt temperature rise.
And fast action on all the short-lived super pollutants will not only reduce warming and allow time for longer-term climate measures to take effect, but it will save countless lives and money by improving respiratory health, protecting food production, and ensuring equitable access to cooling worldwide.
What is lacking? Political courage, financing, and strategic action to reduce these emissions as a global priority while we also advance with haste on solutions for mid-term emission reduction goals, carbon dioxide removal, and support for adaptation.
Micronesia recognizes that every country here is increasing its climate action, and we are grateful for your efforts, as well as for the support to help developing countries adapt to climate impacts.
But I must be very frank today, because although I would like to graciously smile, say thank you and be done, to do so would be a betrayal of my duty to the citizens of my country, to my grandchildren, and to all vulnerable island nations who need the world to know that, although we have contributed almost nothing to the climate problem, we are on the front line to be the most severely impacted. Many people will lose their land and even their lives if global efforts do not take us farther, faster.
1.5 degrees Celsius is not only a life-saving limit for small islands and poor nations. It is the ignition for a fuse that could set off an unstoppable series of events that will impact us all. If we do not speed up our actions to slow temperature rise, all the best intentions and massive investments for future climate solutions could be worthless.
The race is on. Let us sprint towards a safe future by making it to our first goal post — to reduce the short-lived super pollutants – at warp speed. Together we can win this race.
Thank you for your attention.