Livelihoods at stake if climate change is not addressed

Climate change is very real in Kirbati. It’s about survival. It’s about saving our islands. It’s about saving our homes, Kiribati native Maria Tiimon-Chi Fang told politicians and church leaders this week.

Environmental NGO’s, politicians and stakeholders gathered at Parliament House on Monday 17 August 2015 to discuss Pope Francis’s environment encyclical, Laudato Si’, focusing on the need for action on climate change.

Maria spoke of the firsthand experiences of those dealing with the reality of climate change. Living in Kiribati, Maria works with the Edmund Rice Centre’s Pacific Calling Partnership.

‘The elders don’t want to move, our young people don’t want to move.
It is so unjust for our young people to think there will not be a future for them in Kiribati because of Climate change.’

‘We are all interconnected and we need to work together on this issue, to have compassion towards the environment, the planet and the lives of the people on our islands,’ Maria said.

Archbishop Yllana, Apostolic Nuncio to Australia and Paul O'Callagahan, CEO of Caritas Australia.

Archbishop Yllana, Apostolic Nuncio to Australia and Paul O’Callagahan, CEO of Caritas Australia.

Caritas Australia says the Australian Government’s new target to reduce carbon pollution by 26-28 per cent of 2005 levels by 2030 will be too little too late for many of the global poor, including our Pacific neighbours.

The Pacific island republic of Kiribati is planning for the relocation of its entire population if sea levels continue to rise. The President, Anote Tong, recently appealed directly to the Australian people to act on what he called our ‘moral responsibility’ as fellow human beings.

In his Encyclical, Pope Francis emphasises that the poorest and most marginalised communities are already being disproportionately impacted by climate change, yet have done the least to cause it.

Maria Tiimon-Chi Fang, Jacqui Remond, Meg McDonald and Paul O'Callaghan

Maria Tiimon-Chi Fang, Jacqui Remond, Meg McDonald and Paul O’Callaghan

The World Bank estimates that up to 80 per cent of the human and financial damage due to climate change will occur in poor countries. Caritas Australia’s CEO Paul O’Callaghan said the government’s announced post 2020 targets are disappointing and that Australia has a responsibility to the global poor as one of the highest emitters in the world (per capita).

“Climate change is the defining challenge of our time.,”Mr O’Callaghan said. Australia needs to increase its post 2020 targets and contribute meaningfully to climate financing.”

Addressing the gathering Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana, Apostolic Nuncio to Australia, said, ‘Pope Francis explains the root causes of issues such as climate change is the rupture of our relationship with nature’.

‘We are invited to a conversion; humanity still has the opportunity to work towards building our common home,’ he added.

Jacqui Remond, Director of Catholic Earthcare said, ‘we have a moral, spiritual and ethical imperative to care for our common home’.

‘We need to call on our government to urgently increase our climate change targets,’ Jacqui said. ‘The less coal we burn, the better for creation,’ she added.

Meg McDonald, Chief Operating Officer at the Clean Energy Finance Cooperation, also addressed the issue of climate change and how we can achieve solutions by working together. ‘An important point of the encyclical is the role that we as individuals can play in making a difference, so it’s not just the framework from government and business that matters. They set us on the right pathway but we make the choices everyday.’

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