Pacific leaders address climate-induced migration

Climate change impact is being felt in the Pacific, the meeting of Pacific leaders have heard. Picture: FT FILE

PACIFIC Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organizations (PIANGO) is hosting a coalition of Pacific leaders in Tahiti this week to address climate-induced migration and displacement.

Commending island leaders for their efforts on the issue, Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (PIANGO) executive director Emele Duituturaga said that it affected everyone in the Pacific and required a concerted effort by all.

“We, Pacific people are the peoples of the largest ocean of the world. The Pacific Ocean is a vital regulator of climate for the whole world,” she told the conference, which was attended by about 100 people.

“As the result of global warming, the great increases in temperatures have also resulted in large changes in climate throughout the world giving rise to extreme weather conditions – like very strong cyclones, heavy rains with destructive floods, extreme high tides causing heavy coastal erosion and unusually long periods of drought, not to mention melting of the ice glaciers which contributes to sea level rise.”

Ms Duituturaga said civil society also recognised that climate change was one of the most pressing challenges that our planet faced, which impacted people’s ability to realise human rights and sustainable development for current and future generations and CSOs would continue to ask the question.

“We take a climate justice and rights-based approach. We also affirm that climate justice requires that climate action be consistent with existing human rights agreements, obligations, standards and principles.”

She said Pacific islanders bear the greatest brunt of this catastrophe and carry the heaviest burden of the climate problem that “we have not created”.

“The link between climate change and migration has not been talked about much in the Pacific, perhaps an uncomfortable subject, but there are those of us who want to talk about it and that our governments need to consider and accept that climate-induced or climate-related migration is already taking place.

“Climate-induced migration refers to people having to leave as a result of climate impacts. Forced displacement is probably a more clearer way of referring to this challenge.”

She told the conference that during the Easter weekend, this year, Fiji was hit by devastating and damaging floods caused by Cyclone Josie and Cyclone Keni within two weeks, killing four.

Two years earlier, Cyclone Winston recorded as the most destructive to hit Fiji, killed more than 44, destroyed thousands of homes and impacted 30 per cent of the country’s GDP.

This sort of weather, she said, had become a norm for island states.

“Trauma is still abound and life remains hard for many (in Fiji), thousands of whom have to survive in make-do shacks and tents. There are families still living under tarpaulin tents.”