Government must act to support threatened communities

Friends of the Earth media release. June 8, 2013

World Oceans Day
Government must act to support threatened communities

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.

Ocean warming, acidification and sea level rise, as well as ocean-related extreme weather events, are well documented, as are the negative impacts of this warming on coral reefs, fish migration patterns and local fish stocks.

“Changes in ocean dynamics and threats to ocean health are already having profound impacts on many vulnerable communities around the world.  Any rise in sea level is ultimately catastrophic for people living on low-lying small islands and atolls” said Friends of the Earth spokesperson Wendy Flannery.

“The world’s best scientists tell us that this is the critical decade for cutting carbon emissions if we are to have any chance of preventing runaway climate change and its devastating consequences.  With no possibility of a global agreement taking effect before 2020, all Australian political parties must show that they are willing to show leadership on this issue.”

“As one of the highest per capita carbon emitting countries on the planet, fulfilling our global obligations will require the kind of leadership which resists appeals to short-term tax payer interests and which is capable of mobilising all sectors of society in a common goal.  It will require comprehensive policies to transform our pollution dependent economy into one based on clean, renewable energy”.  

Australia also has a special obligation to its island neighbours in the Pacific Ocean.  On current estimates, around 800,000 people in the region are already under threat of forced climate-change-related displacement, and several communities have already had to relocate.
“Sadly, no amount of adaptation or resilience building will be adequate to deal with the damage already caused by highly industrialised countries like Australia to communities living in small, low-lying islands in the Pacific,” said Ms Flannery.  “With limited land availability, internal migration becomes less and less of an option.”

"Any Party wishing to be the next Australian government must be actively involved in efforts already underway to develop new legal and policy frameworks for the resettlement of people forced to migrate by climate-related factors.”   

“For Australia this will mean developing clear, appropriate and generous resettlement options, in consultation with affected communities and their leaders, and expressing public support for such Pacific Island initiatives as the Kiribati government’s ‘migration with dignity’ project.”  In the words of Kiribati’s President, "To plan for the day when you no longer have a country is indeed painful but I think we have to do that.”


Wendy Flannery, FoE Climate Frontlines 0439 771 692
Claire van Herpen, FoE Climate Frontlines 0448 956 255