Urgent call for Rudd and Clarke on climate change action

By Cherelle Jackson

Community leaders from the Pacific are urging Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand to take more proactive actions on climate change in the Pacific.

Over 100 representatives of non-government organisations from across the Asia-Pacific - including the main Pacific peak bodies and NGOs - have made an urgent call for Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark to do more to help the Pacific with climate change, in particular increased immigration and resettlement.

The groups, including church, environment, aid, union and community organisations, have released an open letter ahead of next this week's Pacific Islands Leadership Forum to be held in Niue.

"Without immediate action, hundreds of thousands of people will be displaced by climate change in the coming decades. Pacific Islanders are already affected, with their islands very vulnerable to sea level rises, storm surge and loss of food security and water supplies.

"The Pacific Islands Forum this week is an opportunity to define a more concrete programme of action to assist Pacific Islanders," the letter stated.

"Therefore we call on the Australian and New Zealand governments to recognise the urgency of climate change and the particular threat it poses to the peoples of the Pacific.

"The Australian and New Zealand governments must begin a real process of partnership with Pacific Island countries in finding ways to prepare for and assist with the resettlement of Pacific Island people who will be displaced by global warming."

Instigated by Friends of the Earth and supported by organisations from all over the Pacific, the letter is to be issued at the Pacific Islands Forum this week.

Damien Lawson, Friends of the Earth Australia said: "Low lying island nations such as Tuvalu and Kiribati are already facing rising seas, storms and king tides that are having a terrible impact. We could see sea level rises of several metres this century. For Tuvalu, which has an average height of less than two metres, that is a disaster."

Lawson added: "The Pacific Island Leadership Forum is an opportunity to work with Pacific Island countries on a plan to assist with large scale displacement. Australia and New Zealand cannot sit on its hands and wait for the disaster to come. Now is the time for action."

Executive Director of Oxfam New Zealand, Barry Coates, also supported that notion.

"Taking action on climate change for the Pacific is obviously something that the Pacific Island Nations can't do themselves, they haven't been responsible for emissions that have caused this problem, and they don't have the capacity to be able to defend themselves against climate change," Coates said.

Oxfam called upon the two countries to front up to their responsibilities in the Pacific region.

Coates said: "There are three key things: First, to reduce emissions to meet Kyoto Protocol obligations and without having to buy offsets of international emissions. Second, they need to carry the message that there should be binding targets at the international level through the United Nations negotiations and be prepared to sign up themselves to reduce emissions by at least 13 per cent by the year 2020; and thirdly, Australia and New Zealand really need to support Pacific Island Countries with money and technology for defending themselves against climate change impacts which are already happening in the Pacific."

Rudd and Clarke are set to attend this years Forum along with 14 other Pacific Island Leaders.

The Forum remains the most effective avenue for regional dialogue in the Pacific, and climate change is set to be on the top of this year's agenda.

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