Palau's President Whipps Calls for Climate Accountability and Action

Palau's President Whipps Calls for Climate Accountability and Action

In a recent op-ed in Time by Surangel S. Whipps Jr., the president of the Republic of Palau, calls on rich nations and the international community "to make 2022 a year of accountability," and to take responsibility for the climate crisis they have unleashed.

Since 1850, the US has released more than 500 gigatons of CO2, and is responsible for the largest share of historical emissions -- some 20% of the global total. China's contribution is 11% -- just over half that of the US. Next is Russia with 7%; Brazil with 5%; and Indonesia, Germany, and the UK with 3 to 4%. In contrast, even combined, Pacific island nations account for less than 0.03%.

WW0 COP26 Talks: President of Palau, Surangel Whipps Jr., November 5, 2021.

Carbon Brief: Which countries are historically responsible for climate change?, October 4, 2021.

Why This Matter

If rich nations continue to drag their feet when it comes to climate change, island nations like Palau have little hope of staving off its worst effects. Climate change shows that the world is connected -- not a country by country issue, but a fundamentally global one.

Unfortunately, as Whipps notes, the nations most responsible for climate change are not taking the necessary actions to decarbonize and mitigate it. The US only recently rejoined the Paris Agreement (after withdrawing during the Trump Administration). Climate denialism is strong in both the US and Russia. Under Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Amazon deforestation has hit record levels, undermining the forest's ability to function as a carbon sink. In 2009, wealthy nations promised to assist emerging economies in the fight against climate change, but that promise remains largely unfulfilled.

Robin Hood: "This is Loss and Damage - Who Pays" narrated by Mark Strong, September 23, 2021.

A Plea For Change

The effects of climate change to island nations include increasingly frequent and intense storms, sea level rise, flooding, and mudslides that damage property and obstruct roads. And beyond the physical effects of storms are economic impacts. "It is only a matter of time before a typhoon floods the corridors of our only hospital," Whipps states, "wreaking havoc on our already strained public-health system."

"I and other Pacific leaders look to our culture and environment for wisdom to withstand these uncertain times. Yet we know wisdom without capacity cannot save us," states Whipps. "Make 2022 a year of accountability, reciprocity and significant investments in adequate safeguards that ensure basic human rights for the world."

The Guardian: Tuvalu minister gives Cop26 speech while standing knee deep in seawater, November 8, 2021.

The Guardian: One of the greatest injustices': Pacific islands on the frontline of the climate crisis, Oct 25, 2021.

UN: Kiribati - Battling for Survival (Rising Sea Levels), November 7, 2020.