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Office of the President

Remarks of The Honorable Kuniwo Nakamura President of the Republic of Palau and Chairman of the South Pacific Forum

At The

Round Table Discussions Sponsored by the Federation of Electric Power Companies



April 24, 2000

Greetings and thank you for the opportunity to address you today on behalf of the South Pacific Forum regarding a topic of great interest and concern to SPF members: energy in the 21st century and the global environment. This is an excellent chance to learn from each other and to speak directly with each other about issues vital to our future. Because of the importance of hearing from as many perspectives as possible today, I will keep my remarks brief.

The environment of the South Pacific Forum members is the key to our respective existence, to our growth, and to our development. In spite of their small landmass, Forum countries are home to an extraordinarily diverse range of species, many of which can be found only in our countries. Our unique and pristine environments draw visitors from around the world. For the most part, ecotourism capitalizing on our special, unpolluted environments is and, for the foreseeable future, will remain crucial to maintaining and expanding tourist arrivals. The region contains the world’s most productive tuna fisheries, roughly one-third of the worldwide tuna catch. Those tuna stocks are a major renewable resource for member countries and, for many of them, represent the only chance for sustained economic development. For the majority of member countries, marine resources, both living and non-living, represent the best hope (if not the only hope) for improved trade and increased income.

As a rule, the member countries are extremely vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks. We have a limited range of resource. Therefore, our economies are narrowly defined and depend on fragile commodity markets and tourist income. Our isolation has led to high costs of goods, including fuel costs, for our nations. Environmentally, we are like the canary in the coal mine. Our fragile systems are often the first to feel the ill effects of change. Waste pollution, such as solid waste, sewage, oil spillage, and sedimentation, and atmospheric pollution, relating to global warming and green house effects, represent serious threats to our delicate environments.

Once you understand our perspective and the precarious position most members find themselves in, you begin to see why energy issues are so significant to us. For a variety of economic and environmental reasons, indefinite dependence on fossil fuels is simply untenable for most Forum members. Nuclear energy carries its own costs, particularly with respect to the expertise needed for safe operation and the need to constantly address common perceptions and fears of nuclear energy. Various alternative energies, hold great promise for many of our members, but are still in their development phases and largely inaccessible, in part due to capacity constraints and in part due to cost concerns. As a result, we are anxious to explore any and all options for clean, efficient, safe and sustainable energy and would welcome the transfer of knowledge and technology, which would provide access to such energy.

However, any energy source must first and foremost be compatible with our environments. Any energy which puts our environment at risk, can drastically depress our economies by frightening tourists, degrading the beauty of our lands and waters, contaminating fish stocks, or all three. Any energy which unduly harms our environment is unacceptable. Even the perception of harm or the threat of harm can be sufficient to drive away business in our island nations.

We have known for decades that energy production and consumption are not purely national concerns. Although each nation must have the ability to produce the energy necessary for its individual survival and growth, the means of energy generation and usage have significant effects which extend beyond national borders and can no longer be ignored. Those effects can be obvious and direct, as when outputs from power plants leave clear environmental footprints in the form of smog, acid rain, or the release of harmful radiation into the atmosphere. Those effects can be subtle and indirect, as when greenhouse gas emissions from half the world away contribute to global warming and sea level rise, which threaten island nations. But regardless of the form, which those effects may take, the only way to control them and mitigate their harmful impacts is through cooperation across countries, regions, and the world. And such cooperation must be across all sectors of society. That is why meetings such as this one are so important, and why the South Pacific Forum is so pleased to have this opportunity for our discussions today. Thank you very much.

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