Pacific nations need to weave together and act now to avoid tragedy as the effects of climate change take their toll on the region, says Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika) of Victoria University Winnie Laban.
Luamanuvao Winnie Laban has been co-organising the university’s Pacific Climate Change conference In the Eye of the Storm this week, which has brought together top scientists, environmentalists, policy makers, community leaders and NGO representatives, from at least 17 Pacific nations.
“Yesterday we heard the President Anote Tong of Kiribati describe how some of the nation’s islands may disappear within two or three decades due to rising sea levels,” she said today.
“We also heard Professor James Renwick describe changes in rainfall, tropical cyclones and temperature extremes, which are having a devastating effect on food security and the communities.
“While the Paris Agreement at COP21 last year brings some hope for an international effort in the long term, that agreement does not address the effects of climate change—such as coastal erosion and insecure water supplies—being felt now by all Pacific people.”
Luamanuvao said the university was committed to working with other organisations to further enhance understanding and research into mitigation and adaptation efforts in the region.
On Thursday, the university will sign a memorandum of understanding with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), an Apia-based intergovernmental organisation of 26 nations for environmental protection and sustainable development.
The memorandum provides a framework of co-operation between Victoria and SPREP and includes action points such as collaborating on supporting awareness-raising efforts and consulting on social, economic, physical, political and environmental issues in areas such as coral research and enhancing biosecurity.
“This MoU is exactly the sort of action needed if the region is to have any hope of avoiding tragedy. By combining resources, expertise and networks we can work towards building resilience in the Pacific and protecting our environments, homes and livelihoods,” Luamanuvao said.