Pacific Elders have responded to the latest climate science report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), stating that it spells a dire, but not unavoidable, future for Pacific nations.
The most comprehensive review of climate impacts and adaptation ever conducted confirms that human-induced climate change is driving widespread damages to nature and people, exposing human societies and the natural world to intolerable and irreversible risks, including killing people, damaging food production and livelihoods and destroying nature.
However, the same report also highlights that near-term actions that limit global warming to close to 1.5°C would substantially reduce losses and damages related to climate change, although the latter could not be eliminated altogether.
In response to the IPCC report, His Excellency Anote Tong, former President of Kiribati, said: “Over seven years of peer-reviewed science contained within the IPCC report has confirmed what people in Kiribati already experience: sea levels are rising fast and growing climate change impacts such as flooding and higher king tides are endangering our very ability to continue living on our ancestral homelands."
H.E Anote Tong continued: “My people in Kiribati are effectively paying the price for the world’s addiction to fossil fuels and, unfortunately, our ability to adapt is severely curtailed by our lack of resources. I see I-Kiribati people build sea walls out of coral because they have nothing else available. I have watched houses swept away by the sea with no replacement available."
“It is imperative that polluting countries like Australia significantly increase financial assistance to help us adapt to the impacts of climate change. This said, adaptation will only take us so far. Unless the world acts urgently to cut down emissions, there will come a point, not so far into the future, where adaptation is no longer possible. And then, what?”
Mr Tong’s comments are echoed by Hon. Enele Sopoaga, former Prime Minister of Tuvalu: “On its own, Tuvalu does not have the resources to adapt to the significant impacts which climate change is already having on our people. Adequate support for adaptation from wealthy countries like Australia is both a question of justice and a matter of survival."
“And let’s not forget this: We are all in the same one boat on climate change. Australians will be deeply affected by climate change too. So my message to all polluting countries is: End our addiction to fossil fuels now. Let’s keep our common boat buoyant, or allow it to sink and drown us all.”
Corinne Fagueret, Coordinator of the Edmund Rice Centre's Pacific Calling Partnership, added: "Hon. Enele Sopoaga's comments remind us of Australia's vulnerability to climate change impacts- more intense droughts, bushfires and floods; coastal erosion; impacts on food production; more serious heatwaves and increased species loss and ecosystem damage. For the sake of all of our children and grand-children, whether in Australia, in Kiribati or in Tuvalu: There is no time to lose if we want to prevent the worst for humanity."