Environment Group calls on Australia to prepare for climate refugees

Friends of the Earth Australia calls on the Australian government to assist people due to climate change impacts both within Australia and in the Asia Pacific region, in the wake of comments from a UN representative in Australia.

MEDIA RELEASE: 4 th October 2007

Environment Group calls on Australia to prepare for climate refugees

Friends of the Earth Australia calls on the Australian government to assist people due to climate change impacts both within Australia and in the Asia Pacific region, in the wake of comments from a UN representative in Australia.

The UN secretary-general's official representative in Australia, Abdullah Mbamba said today that the Federal Government should be prepared for climate refugees to come from within Australia, warning that many Aboriginal communities will be forced off their traditional land due to climate change.

‘This highlights the lack of preparation by the Australian government to respond to the displacement of people in a way which protects the rights of these incredibly vulnerable people. Our high per capita greenhouse emissions mean that we have a responsibility to assist those who are impacted upon most by climate change impacts’ said Friends of the Earth Climate Justice spokesperson Emma Brindal.

Stories of record king tides, salinised crop gardens and contaminated water supplies are now commonplace throughout the small island states of the Pacific. The people of the Torres Strait Islands are experiencing similar impacts.

“The displacement of climate refugees is not some far off reality, but is actually happening now; as evidenced by the experience of the people of the Carteret Islands in Papua New Guinea. They are now preparing to evacuate to Bougainville Island as a result of rising sea levels. However, the Bougainville Government does not have adequate funding to resettle the Islanders. There is a need for large greenhouse gas emitters like Australia to provide funding for the relocation of these people’ said Ms Brindal.

For some climate refugees, such as those from the Pacific Island nations of Tuvalu and Kiribati, their whole countries are all set to disappear before the end of the century and become uninhabitable long before that.

‘Australia should be creating legislation to accept climate refugees from nations like Tuvalu and Kiribati. However, the Australian government has consistently refused to acknowledge the reality of displacement of climate refugees. In October 2006, at the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji the Tuvaulan government requested a meeting with Prime Minister John Howard to discuss the crisis facing the country, but was denied. According to Tuvalu and Kiribati officials, Australia also has a history of blocking discussion on climate change and of toning down the language on the issue in regional communiqués’ said Ms Brindal.

For more information:

Emma Brindal (Brisbane) 0411 084 727

Cam Walker (Melbourne) 0419 338 047