The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) stressed Monday that climate change is potentially the most serious long-term threat to the development and survival of the Pacific people today.
Kosi Latu, SPREP Deputy Director-general highlighted the issue at the on-going annual conference of the New Life Churches of Fiji on protecting the environment as God's creation and gift to humankind, which was attended by more than 300 delegates at the Suva Civic Centre.
Latu told the conference that when bigger countries talked about climate change, it was really about changing their economy from being a fossil fuel-based economy to a renewable energy-based economy because the burning of fossil fuels was the primary contributor to climate change."But for us here in the region, it's much more than that. It's about our survival."
Latu noted that Pacific island countries were highly dependent on fossil fuel to meet their energy needs, spending between 30-40 percent of their annual national income on energy sources such as oil and gas, but contributed only 0.03 percent to the total global emissions.
"The impact is incredible" and relocation has already happened in some islands in the Pacific, Latu said. "While the impact will vary from country to country, the low lying islands of the Pacific are going to be more affected because they're much more vulnerable."
"Our food systems, our agriculture patterns, even health, our fisheries, infrastructure, water, tourism which we depend on so much -- all those sectors of the economy are going to be potentially affected," he said, adding there would also be interesting political and legal and political questions and issues of sovereignty in relating to relocation.
"What if the people of Kiribati then decide to relocate to Australia or New Zealand? .. What will happen to the land that's under water? These are the kinds of issues that governments need to think about," Latu questioned.