Climate change ‘greatest threat’ to livelihoods, security of Pacific people: Expert

Pacific islands ‘highly vulnerable’ to climate-related events, such as tropical cyclones, flooding, drought, says UN.

ANKARA (AA) – An environmental official stressed that climate change is “the single greatest threat” to Pacific peoples’ livelihoods and security as he highlighted the devastating effects of extreme weather events caused by climate change.

For Asia-Pacific Climate Week 2021 (APCW2021), which will run between July 6-9, Joseph Sikulu, interim managing director of 350 Pacific, and organizer George Nacewa, spoke to Anadolu Agency about the effects of climate change on Pacific communities.

The APCW 2021, hosted by Japan, will take the pulse of climate action in the region, explore challenges and opportunities and showcase ambitious solutions, according to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).

“We’ve seen changes in weather patterns, the warming waters have led to the intensifying storms, saltwater inundation, drought — all these things have made for a very unpredictable environment, one that is different to what our people have known for the thousands of years we’ve lived on the islands,” said Sikulu, who is based in Sydney.

Noting that the livelihoods and well-being of the people are inherently dependent on islands and the oceans, he stressed that climate change effects are becoming more destructive and more frequently seen in huge storms.

“I watch the impacts of climate change on our islands through my family. I watch them preparing for cyclones, rebuilding in the aftermath. I watch them trying to find new ways to grow food, find fish that no longer swim in our waters,” said Sikulu.

He said the 2019-2020 bushfires in Australia and Cyclone Harold in the Pacific were exacerbated by the climate change.

Watching the effects of climate change on the Pacific islands has practically been like listening to stories of what it used to be like, said Sikulu, who added that communities in the Pacific are facing a triple threat: coronavirus pandemic, its economic effects and an escalating climate crisis.

“The developed world needs to prioritize recovery for a more resilient future where resources flow toward ensuring we build back better for our planet’s long-term sustainability,” he said.

‘We need more ambitious commitments’

“The continued investment by governments and financial institutions are impacting us in the Pacific through climate impacts such as longer droughts, category 5 cyclones, flash flooding caused by heavy rainfall to name a few,” said Suva, Fiji-based Nacewa.

He said when Tropical Cyclone Yasa hit Vanua Levu in the northern region of Fiji in December, villagers who make a living by fishing had to rely on canned foods to survive because they were not able to fish due to damaged corals and murky waters.

“Our leaders here in the Pacific are showing what true climate leadership looks like and are taking the right steps to ensure other global leaders are committing to reducing global warming to 1.5 degrees,” he said.

Noting that making an effort to mitigate climate change is a fight that requires everyone’s cooperation, he stressed that small island nations like those in the Pacific cannot achieve it on their own.

“We need more ambitious commitments to reduce carbon emission by phasing out fossil fuels and creating a greener, cleaner energy,” he noted.

He went on to say that Pacific communities should come before profits in the face of the climate crisis.

“Phase-out the expansion and export of coal cause this expansion and exports and exporting destruction to the Pacific,” said Nacewa.

Although the Pacific islands account for a very small percentage of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions, the region is facing the huge effects of climate change, including rising sea levels, warming oceans, drought, ocean acidification as islands are viewed as “extremely vulnerable” to climate change, according to statistics.

“Pacific Small Island Developing States are highly vulnerable to climate-related hazards and extreme climate events, such as tropical cyclones, flooding and drought,” said a UN report in November.

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