PETER M. CHRISTIAN, President of the Federated States of Micronesia, said that the last two speakers had said it all, especially New Zealand, which spoke about the fate of Pacific island countries with regards to climate change. He noted that when the cold war hit, the era was deeply rooted in clandestine engagement, reminding everyone of Winston Churchill’s words that “the truth is so precious that it must be protected by lies.” This resonated today, with the fight between the bigger, richer countries and the smaller, marginalized economies becoming again the spoils of a new economic war fostering new economic colonies. In all wars, innocent lives are filed away as collateral damage.
He continued, saying that the meeting was opened with the world facing serious challenges, and “yet we dare to ask ourselves, is Pluto a planet? How is that relevant to what we face today? Perhaps Pluto can wait.” He called for improving the United Nations as a forum that seeks curative measures, to stop this economic war, to close the gap, and to avoid deliberate procrastination on these issues. A more progressive attitude must be adopted, he said, noting that the existential threat of climate change is more real with every hurricane, wildfire, heat wave and centimetre of sea rise. Islands in the Federated States of Micronesia, and neighbouring Kiribati, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu, will be the first to literally disappear.
Noting that in 2009 the Federated States of Micronesia proposed a fast‑action strategy using the Montreal Protocol to reduce climate emissions to avoid a 0.5°C temperature rise by the end of the century, he said that amount is more than half of the present level of temperature warming that has already produced super storms like Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines and Hurricane Florence in the United States. To achieve this goal, he urged countries that have yet to do so to ratify the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol. If the current trajectory continues, many more islands will be lost and people will be displaced, he said, but the world can avoid the climate impact with fast action. He noted the power of the Paris Agreement and said everyone must be on board. “I am disappointed that some countries are considering withdrawing from the Agreement and I call on them to reconsider,” he said.
The Federated States of Micronesia has abundant marine resources and among its key concerns is a healthy, productive, resilient ocean which is the bedrock of the country’s livelihood, he said, reaffirming a commitment to the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders declaration to safeguard the ocean. While welcoming the recent decision by the International Law Commission to place the topic “Sea‑Level Rise in Relation to International Law” on its long‑term work programme, he strongly recommended it be placed on its active programme because of the direct implications of sea‑level rise for maritime baselines and boundaries.
Moving on to the issue of global peace, he said he is encouraged by the peace of Eritrea and Ethiopia. The Pacific region has a stake in peace on the Korean Peninsula, which would make the region more secure and stable. The pain of all people in armed conflict cannot be ignored. “As world leaders, we have fallen short of our responsibilities,” he said. The United Nations needs to be relevant, he said. “We find it deeply troubling that the threat posed by climate change to our existence has not received the Security Council’s serious attention,” he said, adding that Pacific island States have made a proposal to the Council that is a step in the right direction. The Council needs to be more representative and responsive to today’s challenges. The role of the United Nations development system to enhance the capacity of small island developing States must not be overlooked, he said, calling on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to scale up its presence in the North Pacific.