Are Pacific Island Countries safe from Climate Change?

Pacific Island States are most vulnerable to climate change and environmental challenges. On the day of World Environment Day, The Policy Times tried to explore what are the challenges and necessary solutions.

Are Pacific Island Countries save from Climate Change
Residents of Port Vila, Vanuatu, walk past debris as a wave breaks. These island nations could be underwater in as little as fifty years.

The Pacific Islands rich diversity is being threatened by the big bad world’s industries and technologies. Their environments have become fragile. And their natural resources are exposed to climate change and economic pressures.  There is a high degree of economic and cultural dependence on the natural environment.

The Pacific region has a large profile of coral reefs, their ecosystems, and biodiversity. And clearly, the regions rich natural resources are vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters. Reports highlight the fact that most of the region’s population is settled in coastal areas, changes in population density together with new technology, and changing development priorities have left a significant impact on coastal environments. Developments are endangering the coastal environment. A lot of developmental activities are happening in the coastal region. This is because it connects with the other outer islands.

Coastal construction, port development, sewage and waste disposal and treatment, coastal protection, mining, agriculture, and fishing contribute towards the environmental degradation. It causes bleaching of coral reefs, soil erosion, and eutrophication. The main types of pollution within the region are shipping-related pollution, hazardous chemicals and wastes, and solid waste management and disposal. The region’s coastal and marine resources are threatened by shipwrecks, marine accidents, ship’s waste and oil spills. The lack of capacity to manage pollutants are primary problems.

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Vulnerable to Climate Change

The Pacific is more vulnerable to climate change because of its remote location, weak economic base and limited capacity. Experts say that climate variations and extreme weather have disrupted food production, water supply, and destroyed agriculture. Primary food sources – agriculture and fisheries have been negatively impacted. In the past decade, cyclones have been ravaging the islands. And it has intensified and caused much damage, economic losses and cost human lives. Fiji Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama in an interview with the Independent said climate change was bringing constant and deadly cyclones. He said climate change was causing extreme weather events to become more severe and common. Bainimarama called for global action in reducing carbon emissions and to confront the problem of climate change head-on.

The Pacific Islands have been working together swiftly to address their problems. So far, they have been implementing policies to adapt to the changing climate; fighting for actions that will reduce the emissions of greenhouse gasses, and be relocating citizens away from the problematic spots. Island nations have held mangrove planting drives to protect their coastlines, built seawalls, and introduced urban planning and management.

 What is Being Done

Australia is playing a significant role in addressing the plight of the islands. It has allocated $300 million on climate change and resilience activities in the Pacific Island countries, including $75 million for disaster preparedness. There is also the Climate and Oceans Support Program for the Pacific (COSPPac), a seven-year program delivered by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM). The program is working towards enabling the national meteorological services and other relevant in-country agencies to better understand and use climate, ocean and sea-level products for the benefit of island communities and governments.

More needs to be done to preserve and conserve the Pacific region’s natural resources. The respective governments should employ vigilant groups to create awareness and carry swift action on those industries and organizations degrading the environment. The developed nations should play its role in seeing to that their works and wastes do not endanger the Pacific further. A collective effort is needed.