“No Nation can tackle climate change alone” says President Obama at Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders
The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, attended the official event hosted by H.E President of the United States Mr. Barack Obama, at the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders, at the East-West Center of Hawaii, on 31 August.
In his speech, President Obama highlighted his recent decision to create the world’s largest marine natural reserve, by extending the Marine Natural Reserve of Papahānaumokuākea, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2010.
“The extension of Papahānaumokuākea is a strong symbol of determination to protect the environment. It is a way to strengthen the resilience of societies threatened by climate change, to understand and protect the natural ecosystems on which our lives depend,” said Irina Bokova.
President Obama recalled the link between nature preservation and disaster risk reduction, stressing that remote islands are the most vulnerable to rising sea levels, a core theme in his climate change campaign.
“Pacific Islands are planning where they should move their people as sea levels rise and storms intensify,” he said, commending the key role Pacific Islands played in the Adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.
“We understand there is no contradiction between a healthy economy and a healthy planet,” he said, while he illustrated the role of nature preservation to tackle the challenges of climate change, sea rise and natural disasters.
“UNESCO stands ready to work with the US authorities,” said Irina Bokova, “to translate the extension of Papahānaumokuākea on the perimeter of the site inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, as an encouragement to foster international cooperation and exchange good practices for the preservation of biodiversity.”
The Papahānaumokuākea site was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for its rich biodiversity unparalleled in the world. The site also embodies the deep links between nature and culture, carrying cosmic significance to Hawaiians, as the embodiment of the concept of kinship between people and the environment. It is considered the cradle of life and the place of rest for souls after death. The site includes archaeological remains relating to settlement and land use in pre-European times. Papahānaumokuākea stretches almost 2000 km from the south east to the northwest, and the newly protected area has been multiplied by 4, making it the largest protected stretch of ocean in the world.
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