World must take lead from Pacific Island nations in addressing worst impacts of climate change

Photo: Zunnoon Ahmed/Unsplash
1 March 2022

The future security of Pacific Islands requires aggressive emissions reductions by Western countries and wide implementation of climate adaptation, a Vice-Chair of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says.

Professor Mark Howden from The Australian National University (ANU) said the latest IPCCC report made “starkly clear” that the world’s most vulnerable people and nations, including across the Pacific, will be the worst hit by climate change.

“The report shows climate change is already pushing some human systems and ecosystems beyond their tolerance and adaptation limits,” Professor Howden said.

“It also paints a stark picture; that climate change is adversely impacting every region in the world. More worryingly, the report clearly shows the most vulnerable people and ecosystems will be the worst hit, including the Pacific.”

Ms ‘Ofa Ma’asi-Kaisamy, Manager of the Pacific Climate Change Centre (PCCC), the regional centre of excellence for climate change information, research and innovation, hosted at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Programme (SPREP) in Apia, Samoa, said IPCC reports are a consistent reminder of the current and future climate change risks faced by Pacific Island communities.

“Climate change is the most pressing issue of our time. The IPCC reports confirmed the urgency for global climate actions,” Ms Kaisamy said.

“Our Pacific countries are the least responsible for global warming and biodiversity loss, yet we are facing the harshest consequences that will continue to worsen in years to come. Our future is uncertain if the world fails to pay attention to the warnings in the report.

“We have had to deal with these impacts and vulnerabilities in addition to the global COVID-19 pandemic. However, our strength and resilience as tight-knit communities have helped us to adjust our lives as needed. Impacts are and will affect key sectors such as food, infrastructure, water and sanitation, marine ecosystems, disaster management, and health and wellbeing.”

Professor Howden said Australia and other developed nations must take a lead from Pacific Island nations when it comes to addressing the worst impacts of climate change.

“The risks from climate change will keep on mounting as long as we have our foot on the greenhouse gas accelerator globally. Pacific Islands nations have been leading the call for emission-reduction action and climate adaptation for decades,” he said.

“But they can’t fairly do this on their own – and nor should they be asked to. There are growing calls for developed countries to urgently dial up action on adaptation policy, finance and practice so that they keep pace with climate change.

“And of course, developed countries must ramp up their emission reduction actions because while climate adaptation can take the edge off climate impacts in the Pacific, the IPCC report shows clearly that on its own adaptation will not be enough.”

On 10 March, the PCCC and the Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions at The Australian National University will host a webinar to discuss the key findings for the Pacific from the latest IPCC report.