Latu presented a perspective on the ‘Need for Accelerated Climate Change Action’ at the 14th Regional Meeting (Pacific Region) of the ACP-EU Parliamentary Assembly in Vanuatu last week.
“The Pacific has done very little to contribute to the problem of climate change yet stand to suffer the most as a result of the actions of developed countries and some emerging economies,” he said.
“Four out of the six of the lowest and most vulnerable islands in the world which are affected by climate change are from the Pacific region, and all of them are no more than two meters high at the highest point.These include Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Tokelau. “
Latu said the Pacific is regularly seeing extreme natural events, such as tropical cyclones, flooding and droughts, and the consequential physical, social and economic impacts on Pacific island countries are severe.
“For the Pacific it is no longer a theoretical discussion but reality, that being that sea level is rising, our coastal areas are eroding, food and water security are affected because of salt water intrusion resulting in contamination of water lenses, and communities are moving further inland,” he said.
Latu says although there is a lot of talk about relocation, many of Pacific people do not wish to move, even, if that option was available and viable.
“Pacific people have strong cultural and spiritual affiliation to their land as they do with the surrounding oceans. They would rather die in their homeland than move.”
“Fiji has offered land to its Pacific neighbours for resettlement. Kiribati is one Pacific country which has taken up that offer and has bought land in Fiji,” he said.
“Many of our Pacific island countries have demonstrated leadership in responding to reduction of green-house gases by shifting to renewable energy sources in the form of solar, wind and hydro projects to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels,” he said.
The majority of Pacific island countries have energy roadmaps setting out their renewable energy targets some of which have already reached 100% renewable energy targets such as Tokelau.
The other countries like the Cook Islands are progressing towards achieving 100% renewable energy by 2020 and many others have dramatically increased their solar energy component of total energy generated.
Latu said with these efforts, there is still a need for more than just mitigation efforts.
Photo: Kosi Latu, Director General, SPREP.