Out in the central Pacific Ocean, straddling the equator and the International Date Line, lies an island group in Micronesia called Kiribati (pronounced ‘Kiri-bas’). It’s not “famous” like Hawaii, Bali or Tahiti but its scenery is just as, or even more magnificent. Its flag—a bird flying over the sun as it sets on the ocean horizon—is testament to its peace, beauty and tranquility: stunning lagoons, white sandy beaches and a thriving traditional culture.
The people of the low-lying islands of Kiribati, while being the least responsible for climate change, are most exposed to the consequences of it. Every high tide now carries the potential for damage and flooding. Photo credit: Christian Aslund / Greenpeace
But unfortunately, due to climate change, this entire island nation with a population of more than 100,000 could disappear. After spending a few short days here I’ve been both inspired by the spirit of the people and concerned with the enormity of the problems they are facing.
The people of the low-lying islands of Kiribati, while being the least responsible for climate change, are most exposed to the consequences of it. Every high tide now carries the potential for damage and flooding. These people know first hand that climate change is not just an environmental crisis—it’s also a human rights disaster. The leader of the country, President Anote Tong, is facing the real possibility of watching his nation slowly drown and the real threat that his people will be made climate migrants.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment stressed that sea level rise projected this century will present ‘severe flood and erosion risks’ for low-lying islands, with the potential also for degradation of freshwater resources. Every high tide now carries with it the potential for damage and flooding. In some places the sea level is rising by 1.2 centimetres a year, four times faster than the global average.
That’s why I came to Kiribati and am standing with President Tong. Together we’re making a groundbreaking call to action—to demand an immediate moratorium on all new coal mines and coal mine expansions. In his own words:
“As leaders, we have a moral obligation to ensure that the future of our children, our grandchildren and their children is safe and secure. For their sake, I urge you to support this call for a moratorium on new coal mines and coal mine expansions.”
Stopping the expansion of coal will not fix the climate crisis by itself, but it’s a necessary and important step. As a global community we cannot, on one hand, claim to be taking action for the climate, while on the other, continue to expand the most destructive of fuels.
Press link for more: Kumi Naidoo | ecowatch.com