[Press-releases] Pacific Island leaders react strongly to climate change fears
HannahH at spc.int
Thu Dec 18 19:14:38 EST 2008
Pacific Island leaders react strongly to climate change fears
Friday 19 December 2008, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Brisbane, Australia Pacific Island leaders yesterday said they were enormously concerned at the impact of climate change on the region.
Attending a regional consultation for Pacific Members of Parliament on integrating human rights standards into national policy and law, the Pacific Island parliamentarians said that if industrialised countries did not change their behaviour, many Pacific Island people would be left without a home and a country.
The Honourable Nandi Glassie from the Cook Islands said Pacific Island states needed to approach the big greenhouse gas emitters in solidarity.
For our views to be taken seriously at the international level in relation to the climate change debate, we need to set up a regional human rights commission and let this body make recommendations for industrial emitters to vigorously reduce carbon dioxide emissions, so as to reduce the impact of sea-level rise on the survival of our low-lying atolls, he said.
The consultation has been organised by the Pacific Regional Rights Resource Team of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (RRRT/SPC) with support from the Commonwealth Secretariat (Human Rights Unit) and UNDP Pacific Centre.
RRRT/SPC lawyer Ruby Awa told the MPs that the time for complacency was over and the issue was not relevant only to low lying atolls.
Big emitters need to respond to the needs of Pacific peoples in low-lying countries before their only option is to leave their home countries and we have the first environmental refugees.
Greenhouse gas emissions had risen 30 per cent in the past 10 years, she said. Weather would be more volatile, with the region, for example, facing an increase in the severity of cyclones.
If nothing is done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we can expect a 12 metre rise this century, she said.
And if the sea level was to rise by 2 metres, a large section of Honiaras central business district would be under water.
Awa also encouraged the MPs to take measures to protect the human rights of their citizens in their responses to climate change.
The impact on our most basic human rights will be felt across the board, she said.
For example, Pacific Islanders will suffer failed harvests and coastal erosion, affecting their right to food and shelter, to good health and even life. They face submerged islands, destruction of their homes and increases in the spread of disease.
It is paramount to consider the rights of people, particularly marginalised groups in society such as women, children and people with disabilities, she said.
The Honourable Milner Tozaka, Minister for Public Service in Solomon Islands, said his government had recently set up a new ministry to deal with the threats of climate change.
In recognising the importance of environmental management and to implement international and regional conventions on environmental conservation, global warming and meteorology issues, the Government of Solomon Islands has for the first time established a Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Meteorology as the ministry responsible for these functions, he said.
Twenty MPs from 10 Pacific Island countries are attending the five-day consultation, which started Monday at Brisbanes Diana Plaza Hotel.
Being discussed is the integration of international human rights standards into national policy, practice and law in line with the regionally endorsed Pacific Plan, which commits Pacific Island governments to ratify and implement international human rights conventions, where appropriate.
The consultation serves as a forum for parliamentarians to share experiences, issues and dilemmas encountered in their use of human rights standards to address human rights concerns in legislation and parliamentary debates, and to explore how human rights have been applied locally and regionally in a positive way to enhance the development of Pacific peoples.
RRRT provides human rights training, technical support, and policy and advocacy services tailored specifically for the Pacific region. RRRT is an SPC programme under the Social Resources Division.
For more information, please contact Hannah Harborow, RRRT/SPC Communications Coordinator at (+61) 400628997 or email: HannahH at spc.int.
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