Island Nation President (and CI Ally) Kicks Off Global Oceans Conference

This week in Paris, world leaders are gathering for the Global Oceans Conference. Among them is Anote Tong, the president of Kiribati – an island nation that is already experiencing dramatic impacts from sea level rise and other climate change effects.

In his efforts to secure his homeland and its 100,000 residents, Tong has been a tireless advocate of global action to protect our oceans and fight climate change. In 2008, the national government of Kiribati worked with Conservation International (CI) and the New England Aquarium to create the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), a species-rich marine territory the size of California.

This week at the Global Oceans Conference, Tong is voicing a new concept for marine conservation: the creation of a Pacific Oceanscape, which would connect marine protected areas across the ocean and improve global governance of our essential shared resources.

See below for an excerpt from President Tong’s speech, which opened the conference yesterday.

“The preservation of the Phoenix Islands and the surrounding ocean is our gift to humanity and contribution to international efforts to significantly reduce biodiversity loss by 2010. It is a very loud statement at the height of the climate change debate to say that indeed sacrifices can be made if there is will and commitment. Even now, as we confront the possibility that our islands will become uninhabitable within the century due to rising sea levels, we recognise the value of protecting something that we firmly believe to be the common heritage of all.

“In response to the challenges posed by climate change, it will be necessary to build the resilience in ocean ecosystems so that marine life has the best chance of adapting to the changes brought about by climate change. Only by doing this can there be some assurance that the oceans and the millions of people who depend on them directly for their livelihood and well-being will survive the onslaught of global climate change.”

François Martel is the director of CI-Samoa.

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