After her recent visit to the Solomon Islands, Australia’s Foreign Minister, Penny Wong relayed positive messages to Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and Solomon Islands to tackle climate change.
Senator Wong told the media that Australia is committed to reach 43 percent by 2030 and plans to host a United Nations Climate conference with the Pacific Islands nations.
“That would lead to in terms of renewable energy, that is 82 percent of our energy being renewable being provided from renewable energy sources. So, we are serious about this,” she added.
Furthermore, Senator Wong said other thing she wanted to talk with Pacific Islands countries about is stronger engagement potentially holding Conferences of the Parties to try and press issues.
“When I was Climate Minister and still today, I think the voices of smaller island nations have been powerful and authentic in the UN negotiations,” she added.
However, the new Labour government is to adopt a policy to deal with coal and fossil fuel in Australia.
Australia is showing commitment to address climate change through infrastructure design for projects.nnn
This announced climate change adoption policy by the new Australian government is long overdue and one must hope the “change of heart” policy shift will become a reality for the sake of Pacific Islands nations already seeing the dramatic climate change influences including rising sea levels, flooding, evacuations of people, crop damage, destruction of food gardens, property loss and, in the case of the Solomon Islands, the submergence of once habitable islands, six or more already.
The Island Sun newspaper in the last few days gave us a graphic account of the impact of climate change on local life and conditions, and I share some of those details.
Climate change is changing the social fabrics of the tiny atolls of Malaita Outer Islands in Solomon Islands.
The small community which practiced a communal system, starting to see it eroding because of the changing calamities that affects their way of live, food security due sea level rise, land disputes between families and increase criminal activities among youths.
The Malaita Province government and National Government have been talking about relocation policies to relocate the islanders to mainland Malaita Province, but they struggled to implement them because of land issues and people reluctant to leave the atolls.
As part of adaptation programmes, the Anglican Church of Melanesian has worked with the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) to initiate food security projects, but met a setback because of salt water intrusion
Jenny Asua, who comes from the island confirmed to Island Sun in an interview ithe past, the women of Ontong Java in Malaita Outer Islands used to harvest seashells not far from the shores to sell for income.
She said today, the women abandoned their activities because the sea level rise has covered the harvesting areas.
“The women have to paddle far out of the shores to dive for the sea shells,” Ms.Asua lamented.
She said this really makes life difficult for them compare to past years when the sea level was low.
As such, Ms.Asua said the women depends on men and boys to find money through harvesting of bech-de-mers or sea cucumbers.
Ontong Java is part of the Malaita Outer Islands constituency which also includes Pelau, Luaniau and Sikaiana.
According to the statistics in the April 4 elections in 2019, there are 200 people living on Pelau, 1000 plus on Luaniau and 600 on Sikaiana.
The number on the islands normally reduced after the elections because the people returned to Honiara, capital of Solomon Islands.
The MOI people are part of the Solomon Islands archipelago in the South Pacific, which population expects to reach over the 700,000 mark after the Census this year.
The elders of Ontong Java explain the salt water intrusion into their island has spoilt their kakake plants
The country has a land mass of 28,896 km2 (11,157 sq mi) and the 22nd largest Exclusive Economic Zone of 1,589,477 km2 (613,701 sq mi).
However, the oceans are turning against the low-lying islands in the Solomons which are now vulnerable to climate change.
Fr. Nigel Kelaepa, Mission Secretary of Anglican Church of Melanesia, said climate change is real for his people because it affects the economy, social and spiritual aspect of the island.
He said food security is an issue on the island because crops don’t grow well because the salt water has destroyed the swamps on the island.
“Our people depend on foods coming from Honiara and shops.
Fr Kelaepa said they cannot engage in fishing because you need freezers and ice blocks to keep them fresh and transport the supplies to Honiara.
On the social front, Fr Kelaepa said due to the population increase on the island, there is also rise in land disputes among families because they compete for space to plant their food.
He said the communal system practiced in the past has slowly eroded as family members resort to individual lifestyles as a means of survival.
“Families don’t share food with close relatives now,” he said.
Furthermore, Fr Kelaepa said there is also a rise of criminal activities among youths, marriage breakdown among couples and underage marriages on the island.
He said youths are seen as bread winners because they get money from diving for bech-der-mers.
“Some families allow their girls to marry the boys as means of survival because they can support them through earning money through diving for the bech-de-mers,” he said.
On the spiritual front, Fr Kelaepa said on Sundays, only old people and children attend the church service, while youths stay away.
Since 2010, the Anglican Church of Melanesia and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) have initiated food security projects on Ontong Java because crops like kakake and taro were affected by the salt water that intruded in their gardens.
The project under SPREP was called the Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change (PACC) which involved the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock.
However, Fr Kelaepa said the foot security project by SPREP and ACOM did not work out on the island because the crops did not grow well
He said it is still the fear of the people on the loss of garden crops that will affect their local diets.
ACOM with the help of the University of New South Wales in Australia and the University of Southampton in United Kingdom have commenced a project on environment and climate change on four sites in Honiara.
The four sites are Selwyn, Red Beach on Guadalcanal and Walande and Fanalei on South Malaita.
Fr Kelaepa said under the projects, poles were placed on the four sites to collect and measure the rise of the seas.
“The data collected can be shared to the government,” he said.
As part of adaptation, he said the church plans to plant self-resilient crops on the atolls like bread fruit, Pacific Yams and coconut that grow at low level.
He said this project is to address the food security crisis on the islands.
Furthermore, out spoken, local activist, Lawrence Makili said the Atolls have been used as marketing tools by the national government in international forums for many years now.
Mr.Makili said there needs to be autonomy for the Atolls to negotiate with Government and international donors on addressing climate change affecting his people.
Moreover, Pastor Geoffrey Alacky, said a non-charitably group calls Alliance of Vulnerable Islands Across our Nation has been formed to negotiate with Government and donors on climate change issues affecting them.
He said the group is expected to launch its constitution soon.
However, the Malaita Premier Daniel Suidani said climate change is a big issue that the national government can handle it because it will involve relocation of people to another land.
Mr. Suidani said the province is currently negotiating with landowners to relocate people living on vulnerable islands to the mainland.
“For example, the people of Kwai and Ngongosila have relatives living on mainland.
“We can negotiate with them for the people on the island to move inland,” he said.
Mr. Suidani said people of Fanalei and Walande have already moved in land in South Malaita.
For the people of the MOI, Mr. Suidani said his government is still to find land for them.
Moreover, the Director of Climate Change in the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology, Hudson Kauhiona said climate change on the Atolls is very complex because it involves land issues when it comes to relocation.
Mr. Kauhiona said currently, there is no specific policy or strategy to deal with climate change on the Atolls.
However, he said past governments and the current government have allocated $1.5 million for the Low Carbon Emission Programme and Solomon Islands Climate Action Programme in the national budget.
Mr.Kauhiona believes one option the government can take as part of relocation is to build a second home in urban centres that are close to schools, health care and employments for relocation.
Solomon Islands government has presented the country’s case of climate change in regional meetings and international meetings like the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC), International Conference on Climate Change in the past until today.
As a Small Islands Developing State (SIDS), Solomon Islands is part of the Association of Small Islands States (AOSIS), which includes countries in the Pacific and Caribbean.
The future of Solomon Islands and members of AOSIS look bright if they could see the global average temperature rises limited to well below 1.5 c; and that parties reduce emissions by 45% below 1990 levels by 2020, and by 95% come 2050.
This should be complemented with adequate support for capacity building, technology transfer and a comprehensive, equitable and robust outcome.
All in all, the Atolls people of MOI are living in the reality of the climate change which has already impacted their social, economic and spiritual lives.
Their only hopes if the worse comes to worse is for the people in authority to relocate them to the mainland of Malaita province and the landowners to embrace them in their settings.
Coastal villages hit hard by rising seas
The threat of sea level rise on the sea coasts of Solomon Islands is real
.The country lies east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu and 3,280 km to Australia, has nine big provinces and more than 900 small islands.
Most of the 700,000 plus population live alongside coastal areas in Solomon Islands.
Evidence shows some parts of the country have been hit hard by sea level rise.
At Buluabu village in Lilisiana, Langa Langa lagoon, Malaita province, the water has reached the floor level of some houses in the village.
While at Buala wharf in Isabel Province during low tide, the sea level drops very low but at high tide, the salt water floods inland extensively.
Solomon Star female reporter, Esther Nuria published a story and photos on the impact of climate change on the people of Walande in South Malaita.
She covered the story after attending the Anglican Mother Union meeting in Walande.
The story landed her the first prize at the end of the six weeks National Security Reporting Course organized by the Media Association of Solomon Islands and the Australia Pacific Security College.
David Hiba Hiriasia, Director of the Solomon Islands National Meteorological Services in reference to sea level rise, said La Nina contributed to this as well.
Mr. Hiriasi said the trade winds push more warm water on our side of the Pacific and so the sea level is expected to be higher than average
Solomon Islands hoped for a decision to be reached on Long Term Finance at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC), Conference of Parties at Glasgow, Scotland, from 31 October to 13 November 2021.
Deputy Secretary (Technical) of the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology, Chanel Iroi, said the endorsement of the LTF would not only provide financial leverage to struggling small island states but also honour the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage which was one of the resolutions of the Paris Agreement.
Mr. Iroi said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on the effect of climate change in the coming years re-emphasized the need for world leaders to endorse and roll out the LTF to vulnerable countries.
He said the ground work on Loss and Damages must continue at the same time global leaders must make the right choice to reduce emissions so as facilitating financial resources towards mitigation and adaptation programs.
Mr. Iroi said priority areas for slow onset events and non-economic losses on the international stage while incorporate “limits to adaptation” in National Adaptation Plans and other GCF proposals was important.
According to CarbonBrief, the “Glasgow Climate Pact” that emerged from the summit, was welcomed by many for its commitment to doubling adaptation finance and requesting countries to present more ambitious climate pledges this year.
“Others were disappointed that the recent COP gathering once again failed to provide vulnerable nations with the money to rebuild and respond to the unavoidable impacts of climate change.
“Much was also made of a last-minute intervention from the Indian Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav that saw language around moving beyond coal weakened in the final text,” CarbonBrief
It said the call to “phase down” unabated coal use is, nevertheless, unprecedented in the UN climate process.
Solomon Islands and other Small Islands nations are preparing for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from 7-18 November 2022.
Tony Telford, Infrastructure Management Leader in Hub for Solomon Islands Infrastructure Program said the impacts of climate change are real in the Solomon Islands after their scoping visits to Malu’u (Malaita), Buala (Isabel) and Seghe (Western).
“Just focusing on climate change and disaster resilience, certainly climate change is a very real threat and it is something that is considered at the very start of any design process.
“At Malu’u, the shoreline is coming closer, so that is something we need to consider at the very start of the design process,” he said.
Furthermore, Mr.Telford said the other thing that they noticed at Buala, is a wharf next to the market is under water at few times each year.
He said that was another visible impact that climate change has and is forefront on the design process.
Strong message from UN GS
António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations speaking ahead of the COP27 said the answer lies in renewables – for climate action, for energy security, and for providing clean electricity to the hundreds of millions of people who currently lack it. Renewables are a triple win.
“There is no excuse for anyone to reject a renewables revolution.
“While oil and gas prices have reached record price levels, renewables are getting cheaper all the time,” he said.
“The cost of solar energy and batteries has plummeted 85 per cent over the past decade. The cost of wind power fell by 55 per cent.
“And investment in renewables creates three times more jobs than fossil fuels,” he said.
The UN GS said of course, renewables are not the only answer to the climate crisis.
He said nature-based solutions, such as reversing deforestation and land degradation, are essential.
“So too are efforts to promote energy efficiency.
“But a rapid renewable energy transition must be our ambition,” he said.
“As we wean ourselves off fossil fuels, the benefits will be vast, and not just to the climate.
“Energy prices will be lower and more predictable, with positive knock-on effects for food and economic security,” Mr. Guterres said.
“When energy prices rise, so does the costs of food and all the goods we rely on.
“So, let us all agree that a rapid renewables revolution is necessary and stop fiddling while our future burns,” he added.
While world leaders are still finding ways to phase out coal and encourage big nations to adopt renewable energy, the low-lying islands in the Solomon Islands are sinking as well in the Pacific.
End of quotes.
In separate news on climate change, the Green Climate Change Fund is set to help Tonga, and I quote.
The Green Climate Fund, which was set up to help developing countries cope with climate change, is promising more aid to Tonga.
Tonga's Prime Minister Hu'akavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni and the executive director of the GCF, Yannick Glemarec, have met in Kigali in Rwanda ahead of the Commonwealth leaders meeting.
Hu'akavameiliku was seeking an update on possible funding from the body after Tonga suffered severe damage due to two recent cyclones, and a volcanic eruption and tsunami earlier this year.
The seafront section of the Royal Palace in Nuku'alofa is blanketed in ash and there's damage to the fence and grounds from the tsunami that followed the volcanic eruption on January 15. Mr. Glemarec said his agency is working on the latest Tonga proposal on coastal resilience and it may go to the board for consideration early 2023.
He also said the necessary support will be provided to develop other projects to help mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.
The prime minister expressed his hope the GCF would help his government build a more climate resilient Tonga.
End of quote.
Soures – Island Sun newspaper, Solomon Star news and Radio New Zealand.