A new report has warned that climate change could produce 75 million refugees in the Asia Pacific region in the next 40 years.According to an article by Australia Network News, the report is by aid agency Oxfam Australia and a think-tank, the Australia Institute, and is urging Australia 'to put new immigration measures in place to help with people movements, and to cut deeply into its own climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions'.
The report says the effects of climate change are already being felt in the region and that 'addressing the immigration question is vital, as is giving more financial assistance to the region targeted specifically at measures to help communities adapt'.
According to the article, the release of the report 'is timed to add to pressure on Australia over the issue when it chairs the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting in the Queensland city of Cairns next week' where climate change is expected to be a major issue for the regional leaders.
The Australia Institute's executive director, Richard Denniss, says Australia's Rudd government has failed to live up to promises it made to the Pacific before its election, going silent in particular on immigration.
"Some areas, some low-lying atolls are already becoming impossible to inhabit and we do need to assist these people, we need to be talking to their governments about how we can help them move within their countries," Dr Denniss told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program.
"But in time, we do need to discuss the very real possibility of some of these people having to move."
Oxfam Australia's executive director, Andrew Hewett, says the impact of climate change is already being seen in the Pacific.
"They're facing increasing food and water shortages, they're losing land, they're being forced from their homes, they're dealing with rising cases of malaria and they're facing much more intense weather patterns," Mr Hewett says.
He says Australia should be helping to build on work already being done by Pacific countries.
"Fijians for instance are taking steps to climate-proof their villages, they're trialling salt-resistant staple foods, they're planting mangroves and native grasses to help halt coastal erosion.
"In the Solomon Islands, the provincial government in Malaita is looking for lands to resettle people," Mr Hewett says.
Australia has allocated $150 million to help with climate change in the Pacific.