Pacific climate funding must prioritise the poor

Caritas supports the government’s prioritising of the Pacific for direct climate change related funding, rather than making a major contribution to the global Green Climate Fund.

At the G20 summit in Australia on the weekend, Prime Minister John Key pledged $3 million to the Fund, but said New Zealand would continue to focus on the Pacific in bilateral climate change funding initiatives.

The United Nations fund aims to support developing countries to limit or reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand is also prioritising direct support to our Pacific partners, with an additional $200,000 being budgeted in 2015 for projects which support Pacific communities to respond to the impacts of climate change.

“The urgency of the need for small, often low lying islands among our Pacific neighbours means it’s right to continue to focus on what we can practically do here,” says Caritas director Julianne Hickey.

“While New Zealand should also contribute to multilateral responses being coordinated by the international community, our neighbours in the Pacific cannot wait for the international fund to get fully up and running.”

Caritas research this year highlighted communities around the Pacific fending off rising sea-levels and coastal erosion with makeshift seawalls, built from sticks and stones, shells and coral; or relocating temporarily or permanently to escape sea inundation and groundwater salination.

“We met women from low-lying Popua, in Tonga, banding together to truck in coral and soil to try to keep their homes out of the water. The authorities told them ‘If you want to reclaim the land, reclaim it,” says Mrs Hickey.

“Among the people we spoke with, there wasn’t much evidence of climate funding getting to where people need it the most, so we welcome New Zealand’s priority of the Pacific over general climate change funding. However, we need to ensure our projects prioritise the most poor and vulnerable in our region – like the women of Popua who are doing what they can with what they’ve got.”

New Zealand and the world need to do more to cut emissions, adapt to widespread changes already underway, and prepare for an uncertain future – a future that is already hitting the poor the hardest.

Read Caritas’ environment report: Small yet strong: Voices from Oceania on the environment here.

Read Caritas’ environment report: Small yet strong: Voices from Oceania on the environment here.

News category: New Zealand, News Shorts.

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