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‘We will not go silently to our watery graves’


 By Pacific Island Times News Staff


After days of intense negotiations, government ministers representing nearly 200 countries agreed on a deal that calls for a transition away from fossil fuels at the conclusion of the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference or Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC, more commonly known as COP28, held from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 in Dubai, UAE.

The final text of the first Global Stocktake, dubbed the centerpiece of COP28, was gaveled before midday on Dec. 13. According to reports, Pacific island delegates were not in the room when the deal was sealed, leaving them frustrated, confused and infuriated.

The draft proposal suggested a range of options for countries to accelerate climate action but, crucially, it omitted language regarding a phase-out or phase-down of fossil fuels.  Pacific island nations were displeased by the omission of “phase out,” which they endorsed.


Following are excerpts from remarks delivered by Pacific island leaders at COP28.

Surangel Whips Jr. president of Palau: Palau and our fellow (small island developing states) contribute the least to global emissions, however, we suffer the most from the climate crisis, which is also an ocean crisis.

Surangel Whipps Jr.

Our ocean feeds us, protects us, and defines us. We must protect it in return. That’s why Palau and the Pacific family are committing — at this COP — to manage 100 percent of our ocean and protect at least 30 percent. This benefits not only us, but the entire world because a healthy ocean is a healthy planet.

We have an ancient concept in Palau called ‘bul,’ which means to pause the harvesting so the ocean can heal and rejuvenate. In 2007, we declared a bul on the harvesting of bumphead parrot fish, it was difficult because they are a source of food and livelihoods. Thankfully, 16 years later, they have recovered. The fish spawn every month, creating an underwater fireworks display that is now a tourism attraction.

We need to respect the limits of nature and apply this concept globally.

Andrew Yatilman, FSM’s climate change and emergency management secretary: We are no longer potential victims of climate change. We are present victims. Of all the existing solutions to the climate crisis, action to address methane is the fastest way to turn down the heat. It can buy the world time to decarbonize and buy vulnerable countries, like ours, time to put in place the life-saving adaptation measures that will protect us.

Andrew Yatiman

“The Global Methane Pledge is one of the keys for controlling the climate. But as a voluntary measure, let us be honest, it will not be enough to achieve the massive cuts needed to slow down global boiling. It is time to turn volunteer pledges and good intentions into more robust, action-oriented approaches with clear goals that deliver concrete results.

The FSM is a Champion of the Global Methane Pledge (GMP), a voluntary, global commitment by over 150 countries to reduce methane pollution—the second most important cause of global warming—by 30 percent by 2030. The other GMP Champions are the US, EU, Canada, Germany, Japan, and Nigeria.


John Silk, natural resources and commerce minister of the Marshall Islands: Island states like my own have been coming to COP for years to try to convince others that our future in our homes matters.

Jon Silk

We will not go silently to our watery graves. Therefore, we cannot and will not accept an outcome from this COP that does not set us on a course for a future that stays within the 1.5C temperature limit and lead to a more resilient world.

We have heard that we need a pragmatic outcome from COP. There is no more pragmatic response to the climate crisis than phasing out fossil fuels and investing in a resilient and just world.

If we use this COP as an opportunity to find loopholes that serve the interests of the few over the needs of the many – history will hold us in judgment.


King Tupou Vi of Tonga:  We are Ocean People; the ocean is our lifeblood. It feeds us, it is our mode of transportation, and part of our deep-seated culture, making COP28 and the themes outlined by the UAE, right in line with the major gaps and challenges that the Kingdom of Tonga and SIDS are experiencing, that is, the areas of technology and innovation, inclusion, frontline communities, and finance.

The 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent sees Pacific Island Countries embarking on a blue technological revolution with innovation at the center, seeking to develop and deploy SIDS-Appropriate technologies such as ocean energy technologies, and looking at ways to improve the climate resilience of the majority of the Tongan population.

Taneti Maamau, president of Kiribati: As world leaders our capacity to enhance the health well-being and safety of our youth is far from our reach. Safeguarding their prospects through the availability of essential goods and services cannot be realized without political commitment.

Taneti Maamau

This COP must prioritize the phasing out of fossil fuels to align with a 1.5 degrees celsius pathway and peaking emissions by 2025. Apparently, the best available science shows that current global commitments to NDCs will overshoot the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold.

Despite our limited resources we continue our presence because of our faith in multilateralism to solve our climate challenge. Yet the current state of the negotiations is concerning. I implore all parties not to allow distractions that shifts goalposts.


Melchior Mataki, Solomom Islands’ vice minister of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology: We all know that climate finance is a critical enabler of actions to address climate change. And as such, it is also important that we have the same definition for what climate finance is. '

Melchior Mataki

For highly vulnerable countries such as the Solomon Islands, financial resources mobilized to address adaptation and mitigation must be significantly grant-based, predictable, transformational and unencumbered with onerous access processes as we currently experience with the Green Climate Fund, the Global Environment Facility and other multilateral funds.

The Solomon Islands recognizes the inextricable connectivity between climate change and our ocean which defines who we are as a people. As indigenous guardians of our own space, we are deeply concerned with the negative impacts of climate change on our ocean ecosystems, fishery resources islands and also our livelihoods..

Henry Puna, secretary general of Pacific Islands Forum: The 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent reflects our collective determination to address our most pressing challenges. Our leaders’ recent declaration on statehood is a

powerful statement of our sovereignty and resilience, in the face of adversity.

Henry Puna

We and our future generations should not pay the price for the comfort of the bigger developed emitters today. We demand urgent climate action and commitments now.

Our commitment to a sustainable, just, and resilient future is unwavering. A fossil-fuel-free future, the 2050 Strategy, the Statehood Declaration, and the Pacific Resilience Facility, are  all interconnected threads in the tapestry of our shared vision, for a world where the 1.5-degree pathway is safeguarded. Yes– 1.5 degrees is the answer to the climate crisis.

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