Copenhagen: A Peoples' Preparation - Across Rising Waters

Climate change advocates from within church groups in Australia are heading for the Pacific island nation of Kiribati to strategise with colleagues there, on how they will communicate the plight of the people of Kiribati at the UN Climate Change Summit when the two groups travel to Copenhagen together in December.

“The initiative is part of the efforts of the Pacific Calling Partnership to listen to calls from our low lying island neighbours in the Torres Strait and the Pacific about the serious threat that climate change poses to them,” said delegation leader, Sister Geraldine Kearney sgs, of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan.

“From this we seek to raise awareness of Australia's ecological debt to these peoples and works towards a sustainable future.” Sister Kearney said.

Made up of low-lying coral atolls, Kiribati is one of the nations most affected by the sea encroachments attributable to climate change. 

“It is a great privilege to be making this journey to Kiribati, especially at this time when the world is wrestling with the reality of climate change and its impact on the lives of people.” said Edmund Rice Centre director, Phil Glendenning who is joining the delegation.

“The I-Kiribati and many other peoples in low-lying islands make minimal impact in causing rising sea levels but are asked by the rest of the world to pay the maximum price.” Mr Glendenning said. 

“This visit will give delegates the opportunity to listen to the I-Kiribati people, to learn from them, and take those learnings with them into the Copenhagen Conference in December.” he continued.

“The future of Kiribati is at stake.” he emphasised. “We need to ensure that people like the I-Kiribati are not excluded from the climate change debate. The world must listen. By going to Kiribati we begin this process by beginning with ourselves.”This is the second time a Pacific Calling Partnership (PCP) group has visited Kiribati with a similar process undertaken in October 2007 - prior to the Bali UN Climate Change Summit. 

“Upon their return to Australia, the 2007 group was able to assist in ensuring that a delegation was sent to the UN's Bali summit, with inclusion of representatives from the Torres Strait Islands, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea's Cataret Islands as well as mainland Australians.” explained Jill Finnane, coordinator of the Eco-Justice Program at Sydney's Edmund Rice Centre.

“A further consequence of the growing relationship, was the visit of Kiribati President, Anote Tong, to the Edmund Rice Centre in June 2008 to meet with members of the Pacific Calling Partnership during a formal visit to Australia.” Ms Finnane elaborated 

Conducted under PCP's Leadership Skills Exchange program, the group currently preparing for departure comprises 16 people from church-based PCP member organisations from NSW. They will leave Sydney for Kiribati on Wednesday, 7th October returning on Friday 16th October. 

The group's schedule includes meetings with President Anote Tong, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tessie Lambourne, government officials from the Kiribati Adaptation Program, and Australia's High Commissioner to Kiribati, Brett Aldam. 

At the grass-roots level, ideas will be exchanged with church leaders, members of religious orders, education officials, school students and teachers from primary and secondary schools. 

The highlight of the trip will occur when members of the Leadership Skills Exchange Program join with I-Kiribati climate activists to make preparations for taking their message to the world at Copenhagen. 

The I-Kiribati delegates who attended the UNFCCC in Bali will speak about their experience in Bali and provide updates of their activities since that event. In particular the presentations they prepare will tell of the latest that has been happening in Kiribati. 

“Discussions will take place as to how the PCP can best continue and develop the partnership relationship around climate change that began in 2006.” Sister Kearney said.“All of this follows up the work already commenced as a result of our very successful participation as official observers at the UNFCCC in Bali in 2007.” 

“Our participation at Bali in 2007 certainly put us on the global map.”she continued. 

“In 2008 and 2009 we worked extensively on our home fronts and consolidated our home projects and programs and instituted a Pacific Outreach program among Pacific Islanders resident in Australia.” she said. 

“This has resulted in wonderful outcomes both locally and internationally.” Sister Kearney affirmed

For media comment contact:-

Phil Glendenning 0419 013 758
Maria Tiimon 0424 700499 
Geraldine Kearney 0438 465 668

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