Sunday, July 13, 2008

Govt encouraged to welcome 'climate change refugees'

ABC News Online, Posted 2 hours 21 minutes ago

Some of the most dramatic effects of climate change are being experienced in the Pacific, where small nations such as Kiribati and Tuvalu are slowly sinking as seas begin to rise.

Aid groups are calling on the largest regional power, Australia, to lend its support to so-called climate change refugees.

Charity organisation Make Poverty History is calling for immigration quotas to be increased to allow residents there to flee an uncertain future.

James Ensor is the co-chair of the Make Poverty History campaign.

"Certainly there are worrying signs. The Carteret Islands, part of Papua New Guinea already has an internal movement program," Make Poverty History co-chair James Ensor said.

"Fortunately for them they are able to be relocated to other parts of Papua New Guinea.

"But for small island states such as Kiribati and Tuvalu in the Pacific, there are no other options but to find alternative accommodation and alternative homes for people in the longer term for many of the people in those places."

Mr Ensor says we are already seeing population movements directly caused by climate change.

He argues Australia and other developed nations bear a responsibility to help people who are suffering through no fault of their own.

"There's a deep injustice at the heart of climate change and that is that it's poor people in developing countries who are being most impacted by climate change, who are least responsible for causing it in the first instance," he said.

"As part of this report, Make Poverty History is calling for the Federal Government to work with other rich OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) governments to establish immigration quotas for climate change refugees."

Reluctant movers

Emeretta Cross was born in Kiribati and she is also a citizen of Tuvalu.

She is now living in Melbourne and says Australians should not fear an influx of refugees.

"The quota that New Zealand are exercising which is 75 people a year, at least gives those who want a chance, an opportunity to consider it," she said.

Ms Cross says the older generation is particularly reluctant to give up their culture, climate and traditions.

But for the younger generations even growing food and catching fish is now affected by climate change.

"Their lifestyles are pretty simple and they live off the land and the sea," she said.

"With the warming climates that coral has changed therefore it has affected the supply of fish and the traditional methods of fishing have now been changed as well.

"People can't go and get the type of fish like tuna, the red coral fish as abundantly as what they're used to.

"And then on the land with the staple supplements of their diet such as the papaya or the taro with the water seeping in, with the salt solution seeping through the land and over the top, through total flow.

"Their water beds are now polluted with salt so the agriculture is dying off at a very quick rate."

Adapted from an AM report by Simon Santow.

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