“In Palau, the tide comes to the homes covering the floor and people wade to the road. When it first happened, we thought it was temporary but it has now become a permanent thing that we witness almost every day", said President Toribiong of Palau
By Makereta Komai, Climate Pasifika Media in Cancun, Mexico
09 DECEMBER 2010 CANCUN --- The Pacific took centre stage again here in Cancun at the Heads of State Dialogue with the reiteration of the need for urgent action if the small islands in the Pacific and its habitants are to survive the wrath of climate change.
Palau’s President Johnson Toribiong, representing the Pacific, clearly articulated the realities faced by citizens of these islands, which opened the ‘eyes’ of world leaders present at the dialogue session.
“Coming to these negotiations for two years now, I have observed that there is a lot of knowledge available, my plea is to lower that knowledge with a heart to inspire the world to take action, said President Toribiong, to the applause of delegates.
He said most of the countries present here in Cancun come from large continents that don’t see the destruction of climate change on a daily basis.
“This moment, as we are negotiating in Cancun, people in the islands are suffering psychologically from the rising sea level and contemplating what and where to move their families to.
If I am to use an analogy from a baseball game, for us, we don’t want a home run, all we need is to get to the finish base, said President Toribiong.
President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon supported Palau’s plea saying the “‘experiences and examples provided to world leaders by their colleagues should push the world to act. The time is now.”
Even in Mexico, we are mobilising our people to move if they are affected by climate change.
“We are now experimenting with building new rural cities to allow people whose lives will be affected to prepare for relocation, said President Calderon.
“There is a general sense of hopelessness for Pacific Island Countries because we cannot reverse the adverse effects of climate change.
The Palaun leader said, traditionally ‘we would appeal for divine intervention but this is not a problem from above but man-made, which requires a solution from all the countries.
“In Palau, the tide comes to the homes covering the floor and people wade to the road. When it first happened, we thought it was temporary but it has now become a permanent thing that we witness almost every day, said President Toribiong.
“That is why we are always appealing passionately to the international community to understand our situation.
Quoting from the Bible, if all else fails, the President of Palau said, ‘we are saved by grace through faith and that faith needs action.
“The world must now act out that faith to save not only the Pacific but citizens of the world who will become environmental refugees, said President Toribiong.
There were also powerful testimonies of the impact of climate change by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi, Prime Minister of Grenada, Tilman Thomas, President of Honduras, Lobo Sosa and the President of Mexico. The open dialogue session titled Consequences of inaction – our responsibility to act now, was moderated by Lord Stern, the author of the influential 2006 Stern Review on the cost of tackling global warming.
Another Heads of State Dialogue is planned Thursday with the theme “The struggle against climate change – what should our legacy be?
It’s part of ongoing efforts by the hosts, Mexico to consult widely in an attempt to reach a successful conclusion in Cancun.