Climate change should be at the heart of any new Biketawa Plus regional security declaration, not any afterthought, according to the Edmund Rice Centre's Pacific Calling Partnership (PCP) initiative.
PCP has cautiously welcomed reports that the Australian and New Zealand Governments are set to seal a wide-ranging security agreement with Pacific Island nations covering defence, law and order, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, environmental security and climate change resilience.
"It is good to see the Australian Government stepping up and ready to reassume a greater leadership role in the Pacific region," PCP coordinator Jill Finnane said.
"It's absolutely critical that climate change is at the heart of any new agreement because climate change is the biggest threat to the future of the Pacific.
"For many years, low-lying atoll nations in the Pacific have been putting out desperate calls to Australia to mitigate climate change, and to recognise their vulnerability. The effects of climate change in the Pacific are also human rights issues and exacerbate pre-existing development challenges.
"A regional security agreement means nothing unless climate change is addressed as an urgent and major challenge. Therefore, combating climate change and its impacts should be at the heart of any new agreement."
Pacific Island leaders have warned that unless global temperature increases are limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, their countries will be devastated by climate change, including rising sea levels, more severe storms and cyclones, drought, coastal erosion, contamination of underground water and an increase in water borne diseases such as dengue fever.
The Pacific Calling Partnership is an Edmund Rice Centre initiative working to promote knowledge of and action with the people of low-lying Pacific Island communities who are at the frontline of climate change. PCP delegations have participated in past UN Climate Summits.
Media Contact: Jill Finnane (02) 8762 4200