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The disappearing Pacific

Sandwiched between the two major continents of Australia and Papua New Guinea, Torres Strait Islanders continue to fight against the effects of climate change on a daily basis.

The plight of Torres Strait Islanders are among a list of community narratives highlighted under the Kioa Declaration of 2022. Torres Strait Islander and climate change activist, Yessie Mosby said his people continue to wage a war for survival as the sea claims parts of their home daily.

“While people are sitting in their lounge room enjoying life, me and my people are picking up the bones of my ancestors like shells off the beach,” Mr Mosby said.

“As the time is ticking, and our home is being washed away, the greediness of this world, hungry for money, shows it is neglecting a very ancient race of people. We appeal to the Leaders of the world to have remorse and save what you can.”

Funafuti Atoll, the biggest in Tuvalu. Source- Tuvalu Government
In the tiny nation of Tuvalu Elise Alamatiga said the loss and damage of sacred things such as burial grounds, ancestral land, shorelines, fishing grounds and culture, is a sad reality that its people continue to live with. Picture: Tuvalu Government

“Our future can be preserved for our future generations, not only our generations but your generations too.”

In the tiny nation of Tuvalu Elise Alamatiga said the loss and damage of sacred things such as burial grounds, ancestral land, shorelines, fishing grounds and culture, is a sad reality that its people continue to live with.

“We are surrounded by water but do not have enough to drink,” Ms Alamatiga shared.

“The changes in rainfall patterns have resulted in prolonged dry seasons leading to extreme water shortage. Rising temperatures are causing severe heat stress leading to significant health impacts.

“People are not able to do outdoor activities such as working on plantations and fishing for long periods because of the intense heat, which is also affecting the marine environment which is a major source of daily food supply for our people.

“As we say in Tuvalu, “if we can save Tuvalu, we can save the world from climate change”, Tuvalu depicts all the impacts of climate change and is also an example of the resiliency of her people.”

Kioa Declaration 2022

In an effort to voice the plight of Pacific communities, representatives of 31 Civil Society Organisations in the Pacific along with partners met on the island of Kioa off Vanua Levu in Fiji last week to sign the Kioa Declaration.

A first of its kind to be headed by CSOs, the declaration contains the plight of displaced communities in Fiji (Cogea) Kioa, Rabi, Tuvalu, RMI and Torres Strait.

Pacific Island community leaders and Civil Society Organisation representatives following the signing of the declaration in Kioa. Picture PIANGO2
Pacific Island community leaders and Civil Society Organisation representatives following the signing of the declaration in Kioa. Picture: PIANGO

These stories and experiences will be highlighted at the COP 27 meeting scheduled to take place in Egypt from the 6th to the 18th of next month.

In the Pacific region, especially low-lying atolls, global heating is an issue of life and death. The declaration entails concerns aired annually by regional leaders regarding the loss and damage suffered by their communities.

Loss and damage occurs when the impacts of climate change are greater than people’s ability to adapt, be that of our ecosystems, communities or economies.

These are impacts of slow onset processes such as sea level rise and temperature increase, or those caused from extreme weather events such as cyclones or flooding.

Objective of the Kioa Declaration 2022

Driven by these challenges the declaration strives to achieve seven major thematic areas driven towards supporting these challenged communities.

The Kioa Declaration demands urgent and decisive action through greater action on mitigation, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to align to the 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature goal, to ensure survival of small island communities.

It strives to highlight urgent action on adaptation including financing and support for community-led initiatives and ensuring urgent progress on the issue of Loss & Damage while ensuring the just, dignified and safe movement of peoples, in the context of climate change.

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These include guaranteed access to finance, and the creation of more equitable finance arrangements, creation of ocean policies that are compatible with the climate goals and achievement of inter-generational equity, to ensure a better Pacific for the future.

The Declaration is accompanied by the Kioa Pledge, a commitment from civil society representatives present to provide resources and capacity to the communities they represent, clearing pathways to access climate finance.

Signatories included the Kioa Council, Pacific Council of Churches, 350.org Pacific, Pacific Climate Warriors, Greenpeace Pacific, Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN), PIANGO Pacific 2030 (PIANGO), Loss & Damage Youth Coalition Pacific, Caritas Oceania, Caritas Australia, International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD), Rabi Youth Council, amongst other Pacific CSOs and representatives from indigenous and frontline communities across the Pacific.

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