Australia urged to act on climate change impacts


To mark World Environment Day (June 5) and World Oceans Day (June 8) 2014, Friends of the Earth urges action to address the rising tide of climate change impacts

Urging us to “Raise your voice, not the ocean”, this year’s World Environment Day (WED), followed closely by World Oceans Day on 8 June, “has a special significance for island and coastal communities who are already experiencing sea level rise and the threats this poses as it interacts with other dynamics of greenhouse gas pollution and climate change,” says Wendy Flannery, convenor of the Climate Frontlines collective in Friends of the Earth Brisbane.

“The Oceans” section of the recently released 5th Assessment Report of the international Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), identifies such key risks as shifting patterns of availability of fish and other marine resources for both livelihood and commercial use, reduced coastal protection because of the degradation of fringing reefs, and coastal flooding and habitat loss from the combination of sea level rise and extreme weather events.

This year’s WED theme is directly related to the UN’s designation of 2014 as the International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) which, like all small island communities, are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of sea level rise.  From 1 – 4 September, the Third International Conference on SIDS will be held in Samoa, less than three weeks prior to the special summit which the UN Secretary General plans to convene to press the heads of highly polluting industrialised countries to come up with ambitious and credible targets to cut global CO2 emissions.

The SIDS are fully aware of the implications of climate change, including sea level rise, for their fundamental security.   The preparatory draft document for the Samoa conference highlights the urgent need to address the related issues of

  • violation of territorial integrity
  • more frequent and severe climate-related disasters
  • threats to water and food security
  • increased natural resource scarcity and
  • forced displacement.

Reducing the risks associated with sea level rise by building or raising sea walls and planting mangroves is becoming an increasingly limited option, as communities in some parts of Australia’s Torres Strait Islands are acutely aware.  There has been talk of “a new phase of dispossession”.

Are we as Australians willing to recognise the challenges facing our Pacific Island neighbours, and Torres Strait Islanders within our borders, in the face of sea level rise and associated climate change impacts?  Can we admit our responsibility for the resultant loss and damage?  Can we dare to hope that, within the relevant regional and international forums scheduled for 2014, our government will both commit to ambitious and credible targets and policies for reducing greenhouse pollution, and offer generous support to the diverse programs its Pacific neighbours are developing and implementing to address the rising tide of impacts of climate change on their communities?


Contact:  Wendy Flannery 0439 771 692