Sunday, 15 November 2015

Australia should be an advocate for Pacific at Paris climate summit New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has pressed Australia to be an advocate for the Pacific in pushing for a strong arrangement at this month’s worldwide climate change talks in Paris. The governments of more than 190 nations will meet at COP21 in the French capital, beginning on 30 November, to deliberate on a new global climate accord.

O’Neill and other Pacific leaders - whose countries are already undergoing the influences of climate change - are preparing to enthusiastically prosecute their concerns on global climate action in Paris.

But as the largest economy in the region, Australia must also lend its authority to the position of the Pacific islands, O’Neill argued.

“(Climate change) is a huge challenge for Pacific Island nations,” O’Neill said in Port Moresby on Monday. “We are hoping that Australia will take a leadership role in stating our position to the global community.”

The PNG leader asked that the world recognize the impact of climate change on the Pacific was not simply economic, but existential.

“I think Pacific islanders are not really looking for a financial reward,” he said. “We are looking to make sure the international community can assist in the resettlement exercise and rebuilding some of the communities.”

Climate change is likely to be an enormous driver of forced migration over the next century, as densely populated, low-lying areas become unlivable because of rising sea levels, inundation, and salinity. NASA satellite data suggests a sea level rise of 90 centimetres or more is unavoidable over the next 100 to 200 years.

More than 150 million people, most of them in Asia, live within one metre of the current sea level. And while rising seas will have “profound impacts” around the world, NASA earth science division director Michael Freilich said this year, those impacts will be acutely felt in the low-lying Pacific.

“It may entirely eliminate some Pacific island nations,” he said.


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