Decades after Pacific Islanders first sounded the alarm, the rest of the world is finally catching up: The climate crisis is here, and it’s accelerating.
why it matters: Pacific Islanders, whose nations face a potential threat from climate change, were a major force behind the Paris Agreement. Moving forward to November’s UN climate summit, they are calling for more immediate action to meet the goals of the agreement, and more direct action from world leaders – particularly President Biden.
state of play: Pacific islanders have faced some of the world’s most severe climate impacts so far, with sea level rise from the burning of fossil fuels posing a potential risk. Additionally, a legacy of toxic pollution from nuclear tests and waste facilities plagues some of these island nations as well.
- sea level in the pacific ocean growing fast more than expected, According to the US Geological Service. some islands have already been swallowed by the sea.
- Island nations such as the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) – where the US has dumped huge amount of nuclear waste – Are considering relocating their citizens or building an elevated island. By 2030, “we hope to be underwater,” said then-RMI president Hilda Hein. said in 2019. “It is the survival of the Marshall Islands that is at stake.”
- On Guam, US defense activities pose increased health and environmental risks, according to its indigenous community. Three Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations supported their concerns In a letter to Biden in January, he called the US actions a violation of human rights.
- Japanese government plans to release 1.25 million tons of contaminated nuclear wastewater into the Pacific Ocean Pacific Islander protests.
With the new urgency of crises, Pacific island nations and activists have repeatedly pushed for a bigger seat at the table, especially with the US
- Although Biden’s election gave them hopeMoneca de Oro, a Chamoru climate organizer based in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, said her climate plan has failed to focus the hardest-hit indigenous communities.
- Island nations further disappointed when RMI was sole pacific voice Of the 40 countries invited to Biden’s May climate summit, Samoa News Report.
- It is not clear whether Biden has responded to the letter from the UN envoys. The White House did not respond to Nerdshala’ request for comment.
What are they saying: “It is very difficult and still frustrating that at the end of the day, ‘national security’ trumps our rights,” d’Oro told Nerdshala, referring to the utter inability of self-determination and island territories. Rule yourself.
- That inefficiency is costly – especially when climate change is actually the biggest threat to national security, D’Oro argued.
- Guam Leut. Gov. Josh Tenorio (de) said, “As Indigenous peoples, we have called these islands home for thousands of years. We know the changes we are seeing are not normal.”
- He called on world leaders, as they “see climate disasters in their backyards,” to consider “how bad it has been for the border islands.”
big picture: Indigenous peoples account for less than 5% of the world’s population, but protect 80% of global biodiversity, national geographic report.
- d oro Micronesia Climate Prospect Coalition that charge has led with campaigns against illegal garbage dumpingFood security resources and indigenous flower-weaving fundraisers for community-based solutions.
- Although Pacific Islanders need support from the US “to address environmental injustice and ensure a sustainable future for our islands”, Tenorio said they are not waiting.
- Governments in the Pacific have collaborated on initiatives such as micronesia challenge, which was established in 2006 to manage marine and terrestrial resources.
Bottom-line: “Pacific islanders instinctively know how to work together and how to share resources and how to survive with very little … in a very hostile environment,” D’Oro said.
- “It’s a knowledge we can share with the rest of the world, if they want to hear.”