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Palau President Surangel Whipps, Jr. speaks at COP26 on November 2, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo: Adrian Dennis/Pool via Getty Images)

Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. speaks at COP26 on November 2, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo: Adrian Dennis/Pool via Getty Images)

'You Might as Well Bomb Our Islands': Palau President Admonishes Big Emitters at COP26

"Leaders of the G20, we are drowning and our only hope is the life-ring you are holding," said Surangel Whipps Jr., president of the Pacific island nation. "You must act now. We must act together."

Kenny Stancil

On the third day of the COP26 climate conference, Surangel Whipps Jr., president of the Pacific island nation of Palau, reprimanded the leaders of wealthy countries, telling the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters: "You might as well bomb our islands."

"We see the scorching sun is giving us intolerable heat, the warming sea is invading us, and the winds are blowing us every which way," Whipps said Tuesday. "Our resources are disappearing before our eyes and our future is being robbed from us."

"Frankly speaking," he continued, "there is no dignity to a slow and painful death—you might as well bomb our islands instead of making us suffer only to witness our slow and fateful demise."

The president's comments came two days after the World Meteorological Organization released new data showing that the most recent seven years, including 2021, are on track to be the seven hottest on record and that sea-level rise reached a new high this year.

Last month, the International Energy Agency reiterated its message that expanding fossil fuel extraction is incompatible with limiting global warming to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels by the end of the century and that the production of clean energy must be scaled up immediately.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), meanwhile, said last month that the worldwide transition to renewable energy is far behind schedule—with fossil fuel use projected to increase this decade even as annual reductions in coal, oil, and gas production are necessary to avert the worst consequences of the climate crisis.

If countries—starting with the rich polluters most responsible for exacerbating extreme weather—fail to rapidly and drastically slash greenhouse gas emissions, UNEP warned, the planet is on pace for a "catastrophic" 2.7°C of heating this century.

According to Whipps, there are similarities between the fossil fuel-driven climate emergency and a Palau legend in which a boy with a voracious appetite turns into a giant who "wouldn't stop growing."

"Due to his unruly appetite," Whipps told the summit audience, "the whole island community was forced to feed him... depleting all the natural resources."

When the giant boy attempted to eat them, the islanders "banded together, took bold action, and set fire to him," the president explained, describing the tale as "eerily reminiscent" of the present dilemma.

"Large emitters with their insatiable appetite for advancement are continuing to abuse our environment, threatening our very survival," said Whipps. "COP26 must light the fire."

Echoing recent criticisms of wealthy governments' inadequate and unfulfilled climate commitments, the president of Palau said that "devastated" island nations demand cooperative and transformative interventions, including a ramping up of green funding for developing countries—from the current pledge of $100 billion per year to the $4 trillion the World Bank says is necessary for mitigation and adaptation.

"Leaders of the G20, we are drowning and our only hope is the life-ring you are holding," he added. "You must act now, we must act together."


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