H.E. Emanuel Mori
President of the Federated States of Micronesia
Before the Thematic plenary: "The challenge of adaptation - from vulnerability to resilience" at the High-level event on climate change
New York, 24 September 2007
Check Against Delivery
Thank you Mr. Chairman,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
I wish to express my appreciation to you Mr. Chairman for facilitating our discussions today. I also want to thank Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for his leadership in hosting this high-level event.
Micronesia is already experiencing the earliest impacts of climate change. I say with sadness that much subsistence agriculture and fishing, endemic marine and terrestrial species, including coral reefs, are increasingly damaged if not lost by environmental stresses, associated with global warming. Extreme weather events, droughts, higher tides, and wave surges (not even associated with typhoons) have destroyed crops, contaminated water wells, eroded beaches, and threatened the existence of coastal communities. Unprecedented mudslides have claimed lives.
In meeting these challenges, my country has assumed its moral responsibility in putting in place national frameworks for adaptation. We have included 'climate-proofing' measures in our Strategic Development Plan and our Infrastructure Development Plan.
Accordingly, we are moving forward in some parts of the country with plans to build roads that can withstand climate change and sea-level rise. Other initiatives are underway focusing on environmental integrity, particularly in preserving the mangrove areas and coastal beaches. To address these challenges we need additional financial resources.
The sad reality is that small island developing states can only do so much to improve their resilience against the impacts of climate change. For them any adaptation measures may very well be desperate measures. For an atoll island, just a few meters above sea level and surrounded by the sea, how does one built its resilience against sea level rise? It would be very costly, and even impractical to build sea walls around every island in Micronesia.
While retreat may be an option for inhabitants of continental coastal countries and mountainous islands, it is not for those of low-lying islands. Relocation could be an option. But how does one justify moving an entire society from their ancestral home? And how does one explain to the inhabitants that their plight is caused by human activities done in far-away lands? The political, social, and economic costs of relocations would be too steep. Who would welcome them and take care of their needs if they become climate refugees?
Micronesia consists of many low-lying islands, many of which have been inhabited for hundreds and even thousands of years. Many of them also are situated in some of the most beautiful atolls in the world. If these atolls will be destroyed by sea level rise, it will be a great loss to humanity.
Therefore, the least measure of success of the Climate Change Convention should be the protection of the people of the low-lying islands, and other most vulnerable societies. Negotiators in Bail must keep that in mind: that is the least common denominator in the climate change process, and in meeting the objectives of the Convention.
In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I respectfully suggest that we are all obliged to be responsible stewards of this creation called Earth, and all that is on it or in it. Up until this time, however, man has not been doing a good job meeting that responsibility. Let us all pray that this and future generations will be remembered for making a historic turn, from pollution to protection and respect for God's blessed environment.