Climate change impacts in the Pacific - Australia must Act

June 8 marks World Oceans Day. The theme this year is “Oceans and People”.  

Friends of the Earth sees this as an opportune moment to highlight the way in which carbon pollution is undermining the life-supporting capacities of our oceans and magnifying their destructive potential. These changes are bringing dramatic impacts to communities who are reliant on the oceans for their livelihood.

Industrialised nations have caused most of the climate change we are already experiencing. We must therefore act immediately to reduce our emissions and support those countries that have contributed very little to climate change, yet are expected to suffer the most from climate change impacts.

[Image: erosion on the Carteret Islands, PNG]

Towards a real 'Pacific solution'

Australia must:

·    Transition as rapidly as possible to reliance on renewable energy to meet our energy needs
·    Immediately end current plans for a massive expansion of the coal and gas sectors, for both domestic use and export
·    Plan for the reality of forced climate-change-related displacement
·    This must include active engagement in the development of new global legal and policy frameworks to address such displacement.   

Resettlement options for affected communities, developed in consultation with these communities, must be central to Australia’s response to climate change impacts on its island neighbours.   Such policies will be essential to the success of initiatives like the Kiribati government’s “migration with dignity” project.  They need to be established urgently and it is imperative that they are situated within an international human rights framework (rather than a humanitarian one), with communal and cultural dimensions taken into account.

"We want to begin migration now, and do it over the next twenty, thirty or forty years, rather than merely, in fifty to sixty years time, simply come looking for somewhere to settle our one hundred thousand people because they can no longer live in Kiribati, because they will either be dead or drown. If we begin the process now, it’s a win-win for all and very painless, but I think if we come as refugees, in fifty to sixty years time, I think they would become a football to be kicked around".

-Anote Tong, (President of Kiribati)


"To plan for the day when you no longer have a country is indeed painful but I think we have to do that".

-Anote Tong, June 2008.

For further information

Please check here for our media release for World Oceans Day.

Please check here for an opinion piece on World Oceans Day and forced climate displacement.

Check our campaign here.

If you can financially support our work, please check here.

If you would like to be active in our campaign, please email Wendy Flannery: [email protected]

Please take action

Please sign the letter to Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott here.

The federal election, global responsibilities and overseas aid

With this year’s federal election shaping up to be focused on domestic issues, there is the real chance that fear of ‘illegal arrivals’ will drive out any discussion about the bigger picture, including the reality of climate change impacts on the world’s most vulnerable people.

The Liberals regularly use the term ‘illegals’ to describe asylum seekers, and have run a series of high profile ads under the heading ‘how many illegal boats have arrived since Labor took over’.  Labor’s ‘closing the borders’ response to the influx of asylum seekers reinforces xenophobia and public support for hardline approaches to what is essentially a global humanitarian challenge.

[Image: the Philippines]

The re-entry of Pauline Hanson into public debate may also swing the focus of some public commentary. She has consistently criticised foreign aid expenditure during her political career, asking recently ‘‘what about our nation, do we not look after our own first?’’

This inward looking world view must not be allowed to steer mainstream political parties away from meeting our responsibilities to our neighbours and other vulnerable nations on the frontline of climate change impacts.

We need to let our political leaders know that we want a human rights response to the issues presented by climate change.   Australia will need to accept that with climate change comes displacement, and we must be prepared to open our doors to people needing resettlement.

Please sign the letter to Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott here.