75 million to flee climate change in Asia PacificJuly 27 2009 at 4:41 PM
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75 million to flee climate change: report
By Linda Mottram for Radio Australia
Posted 1 hour 36 minutes ago
A new report says climate change could produce 75 million refugees in the Asia Pacific region in the next 40 years.
It urges Australia to put new immigration measures in place to help with people movements, and to cut deeply into its own climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions.
The report, by aid agency Oxfam Australia and think-tank the Australia Institute, says the effects of climate change are already being felt in the region.
It says addressing the immigration question is vital, as is giving more financial assistance to the region targeted specifically at measures to help communities adapt.
The release of the report is timed to add to pressure on Australia over the issue when it chairs the Pacific Islands Forum leaders' meeting in the Queensland city of Cairns next week.
Climate change is expected to be a major issue for the regional leaders.
The Australia Institute's executive director, Richard Denniss, says the Rudd Government has failed to live up to promises it made to the Pacific before its election, going silent in particular on immigration.
"Some areas, some low-lying atolls, are already becoming impossible to inhabit and we do need to assist these people. We need to be talking to their governments about how we can help them move within their countries," Dr Denniss told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program.
"But in time, we do need to discuss the very real possibility of some of these people having to move."
Oxfam Australia's executive director, Andrew Hewett, says the impact of climate change is already being seen in the Pacific.
"They're facing increasing food and water shortages, they're losing land, they're being forced from their homes, they're dealing with rising cases of malaria and they're facing much more intense weather patterns," Mr Hewett said.
He says Australia should be helping to build on work already being done by Pacific countries.
Australia has allocated $150 million to help with climate change in the Pacific.
The government says it is conducting research and already helping with local initiatives, such as building water tanks in Tuvalu.
The groups say at least double that amount will be required from Australia and they say tighter controls are needed to make sure the money is spent on adaptation-specific measures.
The groups also say that as the region's richest country and one of the world's biggest polluters, Australia has a responsibility to make deep cuts to its greenhouse gas emissions.
"Prevention is better than cure on this and step one is to demand tougher targets of ourselves and of other developed countries," Dr Denniss says.
The report has also called for a fixed percentage of Australia's planned carbon trading scheme to be allocated to the Pacific for climate change and for the Rudd government to fulfil an election promise to set up a Pacific Climate Change Alliance to strengthen the Pacific voice in international climate change talks.
Kiribati and Tuvalu climate change strategy: total evacuationNo score for this post
|July 28 2009, 6:27 AM |
Kiribati and Tuvalu climate change strategy: total evacuation
by Bernard Keane
Climate change is already having major effects on Pacific Island states, according to a new report from Oxfam, which looked at mitigation and adaptation strategies in the region and assistance from Australia and New Zealand.
The report makes clear that Pacific States, which have long been identified as some of the most vulnerable nations in the world to climate change, are facing serious impacts already from rising sea levels, altered weather patterns and rising temperatures. In many cases the impacts are a consequence of multiple causes, including human activity such as logging.
Among the impacts identified in the report:
* The Solomon Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia have all suffered major in some cases historic flooding or storm surges in the last twelve months, with loss of life, crop damage and, critically, damage to local infrastructure such as hospitals and roads.
* Coral bleaching is becoming more widespread and regular in Tahiti, Palau and parts of Melanesia
* Health impacts of rising temperatures are emerging: in PNGs Western Highlands Province, the number of malaria cases increased eightfold between 2000-05
* Coastal communities in Fiji are switching to salt-resistant staple crops because of the impact of tidal surges on soil quality, and planting mangroves and grasses to halt erosion and protect freshwater wells from salt. Relocation of homes and villages is also underway.
* The seasonality of foods is changing, with some plants appearing earlier, and traditional wind patterns are being replaced with far more variable weather.
* Villages are being repeatedly relocated as a consequence of storm surges and flooding, leading to searches for unused land to relocate entire communities. The Malaita provincial government in the Solomon Islands is looking for land to resettle people from low-lying outer atoll.
* The Government of Kiribati has prepared a long-term training plan to make its peoples skills more marketable in other countries to assist in international relocation.
* Nations such as Tuvalu are already debating what the entire evacuation of their country will mean for its national identity and issues such as its economic exclusion zone and UN seat.
A simultaneous report from the Australia Institute has criticised the level of Australian support for Pacific states in addressing climate change. The Rudd Government has committed $150m in funding for the region for adaptation projects, after years of climate change denial from the Howard Government, which insisted on portraying the regional through a national security arc of instability lens. While welcoming the Australian assistance, Oxfam suggests up to $300m a year is needed to establish serious adaptation programs, as well as a genuine commitment to keeping global temperature rise below 2 degrees.
Both Oxfam and the Australia Institute note that Australia (and New Zealand) appear unwilling to develop a strategy for, or even discuss, forced migration among the Pacifics 8 million people. The Institute reports that Department of Immigration officials as recently as October last year were explaining the lack of planning for displacement of Pacific people by climate change on the basis that mitigation was the key to addressing climate change, followed by internal relocation and international resettlement as a last resort.
As the Oxfam report shows, internal relocation is occurring already. It will almost certainly lead to greater internal tensions as disputes over access to land and water grow between displaced and settled communities. A number of states are politically fragile enough without the added problem of internal refugees.
All of these states face the double problem of being among the first exposed to the impacts of climate change like Australia but unlike us have very limited resources to deploy in mitigation and adaptation strategies, and are more vulnerable to internal tensions as the need to relocate communities in a heavily agriculture-dependent economy increases.
However, Australia and New Zealand both appear to be hoping the issue of international resettlement somehow goes away, and do not appear to have even focussed on how they will assist regional governments in dealing with the problems generated by internal relocation. But as the dominant powers of the region and the most likely destinations for people displaced by rising seas and vanishing resources, they dont have a choice.
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