Climate Change And The South Pacific


Leaders of the Pacific region met earlier this month during the assembly of the Pacific Islands Forum to discuss issues facing the island nations of the Pacific. While multiple critical issues were addressed, climate change was declared to be the single biggest security threat to the region. The United Nations has issued a warning that stresses the role of climate change in the increase of malnutrition rates in the Pacific. The Guardian reports that this is the only climate-sensitive region where the rate of undernourishment has risen over the last 12 years due to disruptions of food production. The low-lying Pacific nations, including Kiribati, are projected to be among the first to disappear if sea levels continue to rise.

A report released by the Food and Agriculture Organization highlighted the impact of climate change experienced by Pacific nations in the forms of drought, delayed monsoons, tropical cyclones, and floods. Such disasters are increasing in frequency, resulting in insufficient recovery time between each event. This has essentially deteriorated the security of food in the long term.

Tommy Esang Remengesau, Jr., President of Palau, stated at the UN General Assembly that Palau intends to prepare for disaster risks and mitigate climate change through clean energy initiatives, as well as work towards mainstreaming climate change into its national planning and budgeting process. While similar policy frameworks are shared across the Pacific, an overarching fact is that an effective reduction of carbon cannot be achieved when those responsible for the majority of emissions are not completely dedicated to a global initiative, and in some cases even debate the fundamental need for such an initiative.

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, emphasized in her address to the United Nations General Assembly that the global nature and impact of climate change demands a global and collective response. An issue outlined by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was the neglect of dialogue surrounding the importance of international institutions in the challenge of climate change, leading to the position where “we find ourselves having to defend their very existence.” While discourse surrounding climate change may be part of the academic and political spheres for most of the global community, the impacts of rising sea levels and  increased extreme weather events on drinking water and food crops is a harsh reality endured by the most vulnerable.