People on the Frontline of Climate Change
Carteret Islanders Speaking Tour
3pm, Newcastle City Hall
Two visitors from the Carteret Islands will address this public forum this afternoon. The Carteret Islands are being evacuated as rising sea levels make the islands uninhabitable. This the first time an entire culture is facing relocation due to the impacts of climate change.
The Cartaret Islanders have fought for more than twenty years against the rising ocean, building sea walls and planting mangroves. Rising sea levels and storm surges are damaging homes, destroying vegetable gardens, and contaminating fresh water supplies. Ursula Rakova and Bernard Tunim, the visiting Islanders, have called on the Australian government to help them relocate from their traditional home.
“We plan to relocate within Papua New Guinea, but we have the land and nothing else,” said Ms Rakova, who heads the organisation that is co-ordinating the relocation of over 2,000 people who currently live on the Carteret Islands.
Local group Rising Tide Newcastle are hosting the Newcastle stopover of a national speaking tour by the Islanders. Spokesperson for Rising Tide, Steve Phillips said: “While the people of the Carteret Islands contribute virtually nothing to climate change, they are among the first and most severely effected. Countries that contribute most to this problem, like Australia, have a moral responsibility to the victims of climate change.
“Our first responsibility is to do everything in our power to help them to adapt to the impacts of climate change, and make relocation of climate refugees as smooth as possible. The second is to urgently address our contribution to climate change. In Australia, our biggest contribution is our exported coal, so it is powerfully symbolic for two of the world's first climate refugees to make this visit to the world's biggest coal port in Newcastle.”
“This visit by the Carteret Islanders is an important reminder that the climate change impacts of coal are not confined to the future. Climate change is destroying lives today,” said Phillips.
“Our islands are sinking,” said Mr Tunin. “What we need is action by Australia, with immediate cuts in its greenhouse gas emissions, and support for adaptation in climate-affected nations.”
Ms Rakova and Mr Tunim will be meeting with officials from the Australia government over the next two weeks to try and receive an allocation of funds for relocation. The Carteret Islanders speaking tour is organised by Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, and Tulele Peisa.