Thursday, 10 September 2015

Climate Injustice in the Pacific

New Zealand PM John Key is 'comfortable' with every form of injustice.

Climate change tension at Pacific Islands Forum
While leaders have talked of solidarity, cracks have appeared at the Pacific Islands Forum over the subject of climate change.

A high tide across Ejit Island in Majuro Atoll, Marshall Islands on March 3, 2014, causing widespread flooding. Officials in the Marshall Islands blamed climate change for severe flooding in the Pacific nation's capital Majuro.

10 September, 2015

Representatives from the 16 forum member countries have gathered in Port Moresby to address issues concerning the region, but there are a number of conflicting positions, particularly when it comes to Australia and New Zealand and climate change.

Small island states have called for a global moratorium on new coal mines, which may struggle to get the backing of the wider forum, and enough of a reduction in emissions so that global temperature increases do not exceed 1.5°C over pre-industrial levels.

More developed countries like Australia and New Zealand have targeted 2°C in the past.

Calls for the region's metropolitan powers to adopt more significant measures to tackle climate change have taken on added urgency in a year where the islands have experienced climate chaos on a number of front.

The devastation of Vanuatu by Cyclone Pam in March was the most pointed example of the risks associated withincreased cyclone severity in the region.

Flooding caused by huge spring tides in parts of Micronesia in late summer was blamed by local officials on climate change - as were unseasonal storms still affecting parts of the region.

And now, several countries in the Pacific are struggling with the worst drought in decades as this year's El Niño weather pattern takes full grip.

In Papua New Guinea's Highlands alone, dozens of deaths in recent weeks have been linked to food shortages caused by the prolonged drought and severe frosts.
And, just to underline the climate disorder in the Pacific, freak hailstorms killed 11 people in Indonesia's tropical Papua province in July.

Kiribati President Anote Tong (centre) listens to a speaker during the smaller island states leaders' meeting as part of the Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby.Kiribati President Anote Tong (centre) listens to a speaker during the smaller island state leaders' meeting as part of the Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby.
Photo: AFP

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said he was comfortable with his country's stance and position on climate change.

Kiribati President Anote Tong said the Pacific Islands Forum could split over the climate change issue. He said there needed to be a uniform position to take to the global UN climate change COP21 meeting in Paris later this year.

His counterpart from Palau, Tommy Remengesau, echoed his sentiments, saying the time for talk had ended and that urgent action was needed - which would require greater unity.

"This is the challenge facing regionalism - what can we do that brings out the most good for everybody, especially when it comes to matters of life and death and survival, sustainability?

"Those issues are the very reason why there is a Pacific Islands Forum. If you don't believe in those then there really should be no solid effort here."

Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare talks to his New Zealand counterpart John Key at the 205 Pacific Forum summit in Port Moresby.Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare (left) talks to his New Zealand counterpart John Key at the 2015 Pacific Islands Forum in Port Moresby.
Photo: RNZI / Koro Vaka'uta

Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi conceded there was frustration among Pacific nations.

"All the Pacific islands are always frustrated because you are not talking about small changes," he said.

"You are talking about survivability - because, if climate change is not stopped, and the obvious occurs, like a rise in sea level, a lot of the countries in the Pacific would just disappear."

Island leaders at the Pacific Islands Forum summit in Port Moresby press their call for greater response to climate change by developed countries.Island leaders press their call for a more significant response to climate change by developed countries.    Photo: RNZI / Koro Vaka'uta

Niue Premier Toke Talagi said, while there were differences in the various countries' positions, they were understandable.

"Every country has the right to express their view about climate change. We must accept and respect the fact that each country will have their own differing circumstances in relation to economies and so on," he said.

"This is the same as Niue so therefore I don't have any problem with New Zealand and Australia being different."

Samoa's Tuilaepa said, despite differences, he did not expect animosity to develop between the various nations.

"We talk like brothers and that's why we call our exchange retreat because you can swear at each other and no one knows."

He said he still hoped a consensus on climate change could be reached at this year's forum

John Key is attending the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Papua New Guinea, where Australia and New Zealand have come under fire from Pacific nations for not doing enough to address the issue.

But Mr Key says his country is doing relatively well, and the Pacific should instead focus on other countries.

"We are 0.15 percent of world emissions. Our main point would be [that] China, India, the United States, some of these very big emitters have to play their part. 
That's the message we'll be taking to Paris and a lot of these countries have a relationship with China, so one of the points we'll be making is, you know, you know them well, you take aid from them, and it's a good chance to talk to them about their climate change position as well."

A major United Nations summit on climate change will be held in Paris in December.

Drought closing schools and hospital in PNG's Chimbu
The governor of Chimbu Province in Papua New Guinea says the effects of El Niño there are so severe schools are closing, public servants aren't working and the hospital is shutting its doors.

10 September, 2015

Noah Kool says 300,000 people in the province have been affected by frosts and drought, which has caused water supplies to dry up and food gardens to be destroyed.

Mr Kool says the lack of water in Chimbu's main town, Kundiawa, is an emergency situation.

"For our town water, [I'm] looking around for money to pump in water from another source to the town, and keep our hospital open, so we can address the diseases that come to our hospital. And help our public servants to have water so they can be ready to face, go out and address the El Niño issues as well."

Noah Kool says the province needs more aid from the national government.

Mr Kool says reports of deaths related to the extreme weather event, which is expected to last into next year, have not been confirmed.

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