Tuvalu News

Pacific Islanders Speak Out About Climate Change

Wednesday, 5 August 2009
Press Release: Oxfam

Voices of the Vulnerable: Pacific islanders speak out about climate change

Communities in the Pacific islands are among the world’s most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. On Saturday August 8, people from Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Federated States of Micronesia will tell New Zealanders that tackling climate change is not just a matter of taking care of the environment, but of saving the lives of people who played almost no part in causing the problem.

This weekend Te Papa hosts Voices of the Vulnerable, a challenging discussion in which Pacific islanders speak out about climate change as it is affecting them today. The panel, chaired by Dr Claudia Orange, will include speakers from Kiribati; Tuvalu; and the Federated States of Micronesia as well as climate change scientist Jim Salinger and New Zealand-based development experts.

Panellist, Ms. Pelenise Alofa Pilitati of Kiribati said, “The future of Kiribati is in our hands. We want our children to love their country and love to serve their people. But what is the future of our children when our country is being threatened by global warming?”

New Zealand’s greenhouse gas pollution per capita is fourth highest in the developed world. Rich industrialised countries are overwhelmingly responsible for the climate crisis, contributing around three quarters of the world’s greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. In contrast 100 countries, with a total population of around 1 billion people, are responsible for just 3 per cent of global emissions. The great injustice is that it is the poorest people who suffer most from the effects of climate change.

“There is still time to avert the worst impacts of runaway climate change, but it’s going to take a tremendous effort. The New Zealand government is hinting at an emissions reduction target of 15 per cent by 2020, which would sound the death knell for our Pacific Island neighbours, whose histories and cultures could end up as artefacts in museums,” said Susi Newborn, Oxfam New Zealand’s Climate Change Campaign Coordinator.

“The recent public consultations heard a unanimous call across the country for a 40 per cent reduction. How can the government justify turning a blind eye to the needs of our Pacific region and a deaf ear to what the average Kiwi wants them to do about climate change?” Newborn added.

Ms. Pilatati summed up her passion for preserving her homeland: “Some of my friends have migrated to Australia and New Zealand looking for greener pastures, but I refuse to migrate. I choose to return to Kiribati and to stay in the Pacific so that I could help my people. And if helping my people means speaking to all the leaders of the Pacific, then I count that my privilege. If it means talking to the whole world, I will gladly do it. If I have to shout it, I will shout the loudest.”

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