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PNG Governor Parkop's Speech on Local Leadership for Climatic Solutions to the Climate Emergency

Mr. Chair, Mr. Moderator, Your Excellency, Fellow Panelists, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is with humble gratitude that I am here in New York and privileged to speak with you today.

I come as a citizen of a Small Island Developing Nation; as a Member of the Papua New Guinean parliament; as the Governor of Port Moresby, our capital city, and as a dreamer of an equal, peaceful and healthy planet.

As a former environmentalist and human rights activist, I take the issue of climate change most seriously. It is absolutely critical that we all work together at all levels to address the common challenge facing us globally.

We, in Papua New Guinea are not only ready but we can play a major role in global effort to mitigate and reserve the effect of climatic change.

There are a number of pertinent facts that places our country in this critical global effort to mitigate and reverse the effect of climatic change. Firstly, in Papua New Guinea, as you may be aware, our tidal waters are rising at double the global average. Our people are seafaring people. Many tribes and clans still live on the ocean and off the great rivers of our country. We are one of the first countries of the world to have environmental refuges due to sea level raising and sinking of islands. We therefore, are a living proof that climatic change is real!

Secondly, Papua New Guinean waters are part of the Coral Triangle, the area of the world’s highest known marine biological diversity. Its coral reefs and associated marine habitat are home to about 2,800 species of fishes, about 10% of the world total. That’s very significant. If we don’t save these coral reefs and its marine life, the world loses 10 percent of this world jewel. It will also have effect on tuna stock in the world too where we have 25 percent of world tuna found in our waters.

Thirdly and very importantly, Papua New Guinea is home of the third largest intact remaining tropical forest in the world, and 10 per cent of the world’s biodiversity. That makes our island nation an important voice at the table.

While the forests of the Amazon burn, so too are our forests threatened. Papua New Guinea has the highest number of endemic mammals globally, and as such, when a species becomes extinct in Papua New Guinea, it is likely to become extinct globally.

However, like rainforests around the world, which now cover just 6% of the Earth’s surface, PNG’s wilderness is being threatened not only by logging interests but mining and agricultural plantations, especially palm oil, found in cosmetics, processed foods, biofuels and pharmaceuticals, among other uses. By and large, however, our forest remains intact although vulnerable. We need urgent global support to maintain them as they are not just ours but also belongs to the people and life on planet earth.

Papua New Guinea might be a small country in size, population and the economy, but in the global challenge to mitigate and reverse the effect of climatic change, we can play a big role and we need help. We need real effort to make carbon trading real so we can conserve and preserve the third of the world’s oxygen; we need support to make re-forestation real; we need real effort to control sea level rising and a lot more and it has to happen NOW!

In Port Moresby, urbanization is transforming our city. In 2014, our population was 400 thousand, today we stand at close to one million. Small, I know, by comparison to the mega cities of the world, but still faced with an affordable housing crisis with bulging informal settlements where nearly a third of our city citizens live; a huge population of unemployed youth; and where infrastructure, and basic services are challenged.

Where I stand as the Governor of our capital city, we are an urban center but we are doing our part to contribute to this global effort – we have made a commitment that we will plant and nurture one million trees a year – one tree for each person. We are a city, but we too can do our part to lower the temperature of the earth by planting and caring for our trees – one for each person starting with me.

We are also looking at re-planting our mangroves, and cleaning the plastics and pollution from our rivers and tidal waters.

And, we are using these challenges to our advantage. Our youth are not only our future. They are our present. With half of the citizens of Port Moresby under the age of 35, I have worked under my tenure as Governor, to transform our city into a city for young people, with open, safe, green spaces, free fitness classes in public spaces, and public basketball courts and sports fields.

Every Sunday, since 2014, rain or shine, I lead a walk where I am joined by thousands of young people – and where I seek to inspire these young people to embrace a healthy lifestyle. We do yoga together and celebrate important global, national and municipal events and success stories together.

And now our youth are using their power to join the global movement of young, strong voices who will lead the way to replant our forests, clean and restore our rivers, regrow our coral beds, clean our land and oceans, and protect our planet starting with themselves.

We must not just stand behind them but beside them. I plan to convince the Governors of our 21 Provinces to join me in this effort in their own provinces, and to advocate for the natural wonders of our country.

Papua New Guinea is ready – Amazing Port Moresby is ready. But we need to work together. Papua New Guinea, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the countries that are host to the Amazon – we are developing nations. We must work together.

Think of it this way. The United States controls one third of the global economy. Well, Papua New Guinea controls one third of the lungs of the planet. Without the global economy, we can still survive – without our lungs we will not, we CANNOT.

Your Excellencies, I commend the United Nations for its extraordinary efforts to convene the globe in a common effort to save our planet. I stand beside the Secretary General and make my commitment, as a leader, as a citizen, as a human being, to dramatically bring about the changes that need to happen to protect our city, our country and hopefully, thereby, contribute to protecting our planet.

Governor of NCD

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