Climate action vital for Pacific

Ramping up action to combat climate change is essential if we are to help our Pacific Island neighbours says the Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw. Mr Shaw made the comment after The Declaration for Ambition on climate change was signed by the High Ambition Coalition group of countries, including New Zealand, recently.  The declaration underscores the urgency for countries to enhance their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by 2020 in line with the Paris Agreement; put in place long-term strategies to reach net zero emissions; and secure the support and investment to ensure effective implementation. Mr Shaw says as the world works towards the next United Nations climate change conference in Poland later this year, it is important to join with other countries to push for effective climate action and implementation of the Paris Agreement. “This is about protecting a stable climate for future generations of people in New Zealand and around the world, and helping our Pacific neighbours avoid the potential impacts of climate change and rising seas,” Mr Shaw says. The Pacific Islands as a group may be the planet’s most vulnerable nations to the effects of climate change, with some facing possible obliteration. The effects on families and communities can be devastating. For most countries, a net zero target is widely seen as necessary to be consistent with promises made under the Paris climate treaty to limit global warming to well below 2C and ideally 1.5C, the level scientists agree is necessary to minimise climatic disruption and save low-lying island states. According to Climate Action Network (CAN) The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on 1.5C, due to be released in October, is likely to confirm that limiting warming to 1.5C is feasible, but hard to achieve. This makes it essential and urgent therefore for all countries to join these front-runners and step up to enhance their NDCs by 2020 states CAN. Countries that signed the declaration promised to “lead from the front” on climate action. They are Argentina, Britain, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ethiopia, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mexico, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Spain and Sweden. “We commit to exploring the possibilities for stepping up our own ambition, in light of the forthcoming IPCC Special Report on 1.5C, and in this context emphasise the importance of the Talanoa Dialogue at COP24,” the first line of the Declaration reads. The Talanoa Dialogue which was launched at the UN Climate Change Conference COP23 in Bonn in November 2017 and will run throughout 2018 is the Fijian presidency of the UN climate talks initiative to encourage countries and businesses to showcase their climate action. Health threats from climate changes include: worsening illness and injury from heat and other extreme weather, changing patterns of infection including food poisoning, loss of seafood and farming livelihoods, food price rises and mass migration from the Pacific. Those on low incomes, Māori, Pacific people, children and older people will be hit first and hardest, but nobody will be immune to the widespread health and social threats of unchecked climate change. Direct and indirect climate change impacts are already being seen here from warming oceans and sea level rise.   The north coast of the Tongatapu group, Tonga and the lagoons are low lying and vulnerable to sea-level rise. Here the effects of coastal erosion at Lifuka in the Ha’apai group are evident. (Photo: Tonga: LiDAR factsheet)