Hello, everyone, and thank you to the Republic of the Marshall Islands for hosting this year’s Pacific Island Forum, and this important discussion on climate change.
As President Loeak recently wrote to me, “the risks and threats posed by climate change are common to both of our countries, and our history and bonds run deep.” Pacific nations like ours are on the front lines of a changing climate. In the United States, we had one of the driest years on record – more than 9.3 million acres were charred by wildfires. The Pacific Islands have experienced both historic droughts and the highest rates of sea-level rise in the world. In places like Manila, Koror and Guam, the seas have risen upwards of one centimeter every year, on average, since the early 1990s.
My friends, the science is clear. It is irrefutable. And it is alarming: If we continue down our current path, the impacts of climate change will only get worse. Without strong – and immediate – action we can all expect new threats to critical infrastructure, regional stability, public health, economic vitality, and, in some cases, even long-term viability of states.
I applaud the steps Pacific Island nations are taking to adapt to and address climate change. And let me assure you that the United States is committed to doing our part, also. This summer President Obama unveiled his Climate Action Plan, which will drive more aggressive action than ever before and help us meet our commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by around 17 percent from 2005 levels. This will happen by administrative order by the President, we don’t have to wait for Congress or someone else to take action.
But we also know that no single nation can take on this challenge alone – and few have the resources to even try. Climate change is a global crisis, and it will require a global solution – one that includes shared resources, shared responsibility and a shared sense of urgency above all.
If we act together, there is still time to prevent some of the worst impacts of climate change. But the people of the Pacific Islands know as well as anyone that we also need to prepare communities for the impacts that are already being felt. Through the UNFCCC, the United States and the Alliance of Small Island States have already made progress in implementing a very promising framework for adaptation. I stand with you in the fight against climate change, and I look forward to continuing to work together to ensure a more secure future for the Pacific family of nations and the entire planet. Thank you.