dpatopbilder - 09.07.2022, Palau, Ngkesill: Annalena Baerbock (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen), Bundesministerin des Auswärtigen, geht bei einem Besuch der Inselrepublik Palau über die Insel Ngkesill. Im Mittelpunkt des Besuchs stehen die Auswirkungen der Klimakrise. Als Inselstaat ist Palau besonders vom Klimawandel betroffen. Foto: Britta Pedersen/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

During a visit to the South Pacific, Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called for an international effort to combat global warming. “The climate emergency is not an isolated crisis. It is the most difficult security problem of our time,” said the Green politician on Saturday in the island state of Palau, which is threatened with collapse. The Russian war of aggression seems thousands of kilometers away. However, its effects hit those hardest who were suffering from the climate crisis – including floods, droughts and violent storms.

Threatened Pacific nations have repeatedly warned of the consequences of climate change at international climate negotiations, Baerbock admitted in the speech, which was held in English. “But we have to admit that our response as an international community was insufficient, our support too limited.” Now it is “really time that we not only listen to you from afar, but that we actually come here”. The last time a German foreign minister traveled to Palau was 120 years ago.

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In order to provide better and long-term support to nations threatened by rising sea levels, she appointed diplomat Beate Grzeski as special envoy for the Pacific island states. Grzeski is now the direct contact person for the archipelago.

Palau seems like a real paradise, said Baerbock. “But we can also well imagine what will happen to this peaceful paradise if the sea level rises even further.” Schools that are built near the coast no longer offer the children a safe place. Cultural sites could literally perish. And many local residents would have to ask themselves a terrible question: “A question that I personally can hardly imagine: “Will our homes still be here in 30 or 50 years?”

No region of the world is suffering as much from the climate crisis as the Pacific States – even though their share of global greenhouse gas emissions is so small. “This is a blatant injustice,” said Baerbock. In order to achieve the desired climate goals, the world’s largest CO2 emitters in particular would have to reduce greenhouse gas emissions more quickly, including Germany. “We are not oceans apart, we stand side by side,” Baerbock called out to the people of Palau.

The minister had previously informed herself about the dramatic effects of the global climate crisis during a visit to the island of Ngkesill, which is one of the “Rock Islands”. Baerbock took a boat to the island, which is part of an approximately 40-kilometer-long archipelago in central Palau that is bordered by a dense coral reef. She walked barefoot on the white sandy beach and looked from there at small islands in the turquoise ocean overgrown with jungle.

However, she was also shown the effects of erosion, trees uprooted by storms and washed-up plastic waste. The pollution of the seas makes life difficult for marine ecosystems. In Palau, for example, sea turtles are migrating because their habitat and the opportunity to build nests is shrinking.

The archipelago consists of up to 500 islands, none of which are permanently inhabited. According to the federal government, the nature reserve there offers rare manatees, 13 shark species, more than 350 different coral species, birds, bats and plants a habitat that is largely untouched by tourism. A large part of the archipelago was declared a World Natural and Cultural Heritage Site by Unesco in 2012.

In the municipality of Melekeok on the east coast of the island of Badeldaob, which is known for its long sandy beaches, Baerbock also inspected erosion damage on the local beach and spoke to concerned residents. The minister also sought dialogue with fishermen affected by climate change.

Consultations with Palau’s foreign minister, Gustav Aitaro, were scheduled to take place in the capital, Ngerulmud, in the afternoon. Ngerulmud has about 250 inhabitants and is often referred to as the smallest capital in the world. From 1899 to 1914 Palau was a German colony.