Palau's President, Surangel Whipps Jr

Palau’s Whipps Jr: A Critical Voice Against NZ Govt’s Exploration Plans

Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr has criticised New Zealand’s new government for its oil and gas exploration plans, despite a commitment to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees. The Pacific leaders are ready to hold those who are described as “perpetrators of climate chaos” accountable. New Climate Change Minister Simon Watts was not expecting criticism over fossil fuels at the COP28 summit, but Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr has served it up. He called for New Zealand to take a leadership role in transitioning away from fossil fuels and not explore more gas and oil.

A Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN) has also taken aim at the New Zealand government’s plans, stating that it is not the time to explore and expand the extraction of fossil fuels, including gas. Seru argued that intensifying fossil fuel dependency undermines collective efforts and sends a strong sense of wrong market signals, neglecting broader environmental and social ramifications.

Watts stated that the ban’s overturning does not erode New Zealand’s climate position. Tuvalu’s former prime minister and now opposition leader Enele Sopoaga reminded the new government to stand up strong with the island countries. Niue’s Minister for Natural Resources Mona Ainu’u will be highlighting the tangable impacts felt in the Pacific while in Dubai.

The Pacific region is prioritizing building up the loss and damage fund at COP28, with Xavier Matsutaro from Palau stating that there is a lot to prove and that every subsequent COP becomes more urgent as it narrows down the window for emission reduction. A Pacific youth delegate, Metoyer Lohia, emphasized the reality of the situation and the challenges faced by communities and people on the ground. He believes that media and the Western world don’t understand the real problems and challenges faced by the Pacific communities.

US President Joe Biden’s absence from the meeting has raised concerns about the future of the region. However, other Pacific island countries, such as Australia, China, India, and the EU, must step up and take action. Whipps Jr. believes that New Zealand should understand the challenges faced by Pacific islands, such as the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu, and Kiribati, all of which are less than two meters above water. He believes that if Pacific island nations don’t understand these challenges, they may not be able to address them effectively.