By Stanley Simpson, Climate Pasifika Media Team
6 December, Cancun, Mexico - The Pacific Conference of churches (PCC) wants the issue of forced migration and the resettlement of vulnerable Pacific island countries and communities due to climate change on the agenda of any United Nations agreement on climate change.
The PCC’s Climate Change Resettlement Officer Peter Emberson says the issue is one of the most critical for the Pacific as many will be forced to move from their islands or be displaced internally as a result of sea level rise.
Emberson laments the fact that the resettlement issue is not being seriously taken on board in the negotiations here in Cancun.
“What PCC is trying to bring to the attention of the international community is that migration as a result of climate change is already happening in the Reef Islands of the Solomon Islands, in the Cataract Islands in Papua New Guinea, and very soon in the low lying atoll areas of Fiji, the Lau group, the Rewa delta region and Sigatoka - all these areas are vulnerable to sea level rise.”
“What the PCC is trying to bring to the attention here in Mexico is to ensure there is adequate language so that when the people are displaced even further in the future (5-10 years) that the pieces of legislation under international law will safeguard and protect the human rights of these people. “
Emberson is also urging Pacific governments to move strongly on the issue, and make it a priority.
“Pacific governments have been very slow on the issue. One of the few countries that has been very ambitious and progressive on the issue is Kiribati. They are moving the issue of resettlement and forced climate migration, but at the moment they are the lone voice,” Emberson says.
“What we need to do in the Pacific is to mobilize Pacific states to recognize and realize the urgency and to put these issues on the agenda of the Pacific Islands Forum, and then the Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and bring it to the attention of the United Nations – whether it be United Nations Framework on Climate Change, or the General Assembly or the Security Council.”
“It needs to be on the UN agenda so that the whole community of states can act in concert to ensure there is adequate action done at the international level. “
Emberson says churches in the region wield a lot of influence within their constituencies and congregations – and its important they raise the issue and be part of the solution on something important like climate change that will affect peoples lives.