Representatives from the Pacific Island communities most threatened by rising sea levels, will travel to the Copenhagen UN summit this week, together with Australian human rights advocates, to ensure that the human face of climate change is not forgotten.
“For too long the climate change discussion has been an elitist debate between scientists, politicians, economists and environmentalists,” explained Phil Glendenning, director of the Edmund Rice Centre, and a member of the Pacific Calling Partnership (PCP) delegation. “Our humanity is at stake and this elitism cannot be allowed to continue.”
“What the climate crisis demands is the best our humanity has to offer - to each other and the planet,” Mr Glendenning said. “It is essentially a story about human rights, justice and equity. While it will impact every species on earth, it is the human face of this suffering that speaks most powerfully to all of us.”
“While Australian politicians have had the luxury of arguing over the ETS, they need to remember that they have a larger responsibility. This responsibility was explicitly ignored over the past week in Australia. Spreading ignorance and fear is no substitute for policy when vulnerable lives are at stake.”
“It is much easier to destroy than to build. Building and maintaining environments and communities is not an optional extra - it is the fundamental task and responsibility of every Government and, it needs to be said, every alternative Government,” Mr Glendenning affirmed.
In preparation for Copenhagen, representatives of the PCP traveled to Kiribati in October for consultations, and to witness at first-hand the sea encroachments already impacting on communities. A PCP delegation attended the December 2007 UN summit in Bali.
“This is not an issue of the future,” Mr Glendenning emphasised. “Climate change has a human face now!”
“In Kiribati we heard the concerns of President Anote Tong and of local residents and we saw for ourselves the impact rising sea levels are having. We saw the hospital wards that have been flooded, the dead and dying palm trees, and the villages and food-providing fields inundated by sea water.” he continued.
“Countries like Tuvalu and Kiribati need assistance from outside in order for their culture and their livelihoods to survive. “Their need for action is now. Surely their lives are important enough for Australian leaders to act together in a bipartisan way to address this most urgent and pressing need."