Friday, 17 October 2008 4:30 AM

Climate Change could force Relocation from Small Islands

A climate change meeting held in Samoa this week heard that climate change could force people in small islands to relocate to bigger countries.

As reported by the Samoa Observer, the 'issue was discussed at the fourth Pacific Climate Change Roundtable (PCCR) Conference, which officially opened at the National University of Samoa (NUS)' this week.

'Countries like Kiribati, Tuvalu and Tokelau are among the most vulnerable islands states in the Pacific to rising sea level, the meeting heard' and Director of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Asterio Takesy, 'said relocation was a sensitive issue' in that although 'it was still an option at this stage, further damage done to the environment could mean there is nowhere for these people to go'.

"Relocation is a sensitive issue for some of us in the Pacific," he said. "Firstly are those who are targeted and being referred to as climate change refugees and the word itself conveys the message we are giving up ... that we just lay back and accept rather than do something about it."
He added that, "What people value as their culture is unthinkable for someone to leave behind."

He stated that there were various ways of relocation but that it was not 'as simple as one would think'.

"It's obviously an option if we can achieve African countries' support. When there is support, there is hope."

The Samoa Observer further reports that according to David Hunter, on behalf of Professor Patrick Nunn of Oceanic Geoscience - University of the South Pacific, 'relocation was a solution to survival', that 'the challenges posed by climate change were profound and they endanger the ability of island environments to continue to sustain their inhabitants'

The report lists the two principal threats and five cross-cutting management issues.

Two principal threats to Pacific islands from future climate change lie in:
. environmental sustainability, especially the impacts of warming and precipitation change on the food resource base; and

. the loss of usable land resulting from sea-level rises, shoreline erosion, and groundwater salinisation.

Five cross-cutting management issues provide a blueprint for optimally countering the effects of future climate changes in the Pacific islands. These are:
. for the region to take ownership of climate change;

. to produce and adhere to effective long-term development plans;

. to mainstream awareness of climate change among all Pacific Island people;

. to empower persons of influence in local communities to make appropriate decisions regarding environmental futures; and

. to re-locate vulnerable communities and infrastructure.