Climate change ‘defining issue for the world’, says Labour MP


Hele Ikimotu checks out Auckland responses to climate change in a vox pops video.

By Hele Ikimotu in Auckland

Pasifika youth should be more engaged with climate change, says a Labour MP.

Labour’s Pacific Island Affairs spokesperson Su’a William Sio … on a “fact finding” climate change visit to Kiribati in March last year. Image: Su’a William Sio

With the damaging effects of climate change increasing, Labour spokesperson for Pacific Island Affairs Su’a William Sio says it is important for young Pasifika people to be aware of the issue.

“As Pacific people, we will have a sympathetic view towards the Pacific and can advocate strongly for the rest of New Zealand to look at the Pacific with humanitarian eyes.”

He said young people were in an advantageous position to be aware of climate change.

“They’ve got strengths and talents that they can use in telling the climate change story, which will have an impact on the rest of the world.

“This is a defining issue for the world and it’s an issue that future generations are going to have to deal with.”

According to NASA, sea levels have risen by about 20.32 cm since the beginning of the 20th century.

Climate change awareness
The areas most affected by climate change include Fiji, Kiribati and Tuvalu.

A report by the Pacific-Australia Climate Change Science and Adaptation Planning Programme (PACCSAP) estimated that by 2100, sea levels would rise by 20-60cm in Pacific Island countries.

Su’a said it was mainly the government’s responsibility to raise awareness.

“Ultimately governments have the power and resources to drive the issue. It should be included as part and parcel of our educational curriculum,” he said.

In March, Fonua, a play framed around climate change showcased at the Mangere Arts Centre as part of the Auckland Arts Festival and further enabled people to understand the realities of climate change, organisers said.

“It was a Polynesian response to climate change – we just wanted to bring awareness around it,” Fonua‘s artistic director Jase Manumu’a said.

Manumu’a said the show ultimately brought the Pacific Island community together to understand how detrimental climate change was.

Climate change ‘topical’
Professor Geoffrey Craig, head of research within Auckland University’s of Technology’s (AUT) School of Communication Studies, said climate change was a topical issue that people needed to be aware of.

Also a former environmental journalist, Dr Craig said a lot of people saw climate change as a “frightening issue”, but that it was starting to become more active.

“Issues relating to the environment are going to be hitting home now over the next few decades. So the people who are going to be really affected by it are young people,” he said.

Hele Ikimotu is a Niuean and Banaban-Gilbertese student journalist on his final year of a Bachelor of Communication Studies, majoring in journalism, at Auckland University of Technology.

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Hele Ikimotu is a Niuean and Banaban-Gilbertese journalist and NGO worker who graduated with Bachelor of Communication Studies (Journalism) and a Postgraduate Diploma in Communication Studies at Auckland University of Technology. Hele has a passion and interest for Pacific journalism, especially regarding arts and culture.