PACIFIC ISLAND COUNTRIES CRITICIZE INACTION OVER CLIMATE CHANGE

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SOUTH PACIFIC REGIONAL ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME (SPREP) Apia, Samoa

Press Release November 3, 1999

Pacific Island countries today expressed severe disappointment that the rest of the world had failed to decide on immediate actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help vulnerable countries adapt to climate change.

Speaking at a press conference held during the Climate Convention Conference being held in Bonn, Germany, eight Pacific Island countries described a broad range of disruptive climate and sea level changes which they were experiencing now, and said there was an urgent need for global action to stop global warming and climate change.

Describing the extent of coastal erosion in some parts of the Kingdom of Tonga, Tongan spokesman Mr. Taniela Tukia said four years ago officials from the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources spent a week in one particular area searching for survey pegs from the 1927 survey of Tonga. "Eventually they found them under water," he said.

Palau Congressman Surangel Whipps described how coral bleaching had devastated parts of Palau's coral reefs, declared by the Smithsonian Institute to be one of the seven wonders of the underwater world. He said in all his sixty years he had never seen such destruction.

Hon. Pokotoa Sipeli, the Minister of Meteorology, Climate Change and Environment for the Government of Niue, said breadfruit trees, which supply a staple food, used to fruit for three months of the year. Now, however, they were developing fruit all year, but the immature fruit was dropping off before it ripened.

In Kiribati, Ms. Karibaiti Taoaba said some villages were being forced to move inland because of worsening coastal erosion.

Ms. Myra Moekaá from the Cook Islands said as well as increased coastal erosion, her country had suffered a recent increase in the frequency and severity of cyclones. "Time is running out for us," she said. "We call on the handful of parties stalling negotiations to allow matters to move forward."

Mr. Russell Nari from Vanuatu also noted an increase in the frequency and severity of cyclones, and said rising seas were covering some low-lying coconut plantations. He said all Pacific Island countries attending the Climate Convention Conference were disappointed that there were no decisions to take immediate action.

"The way we look at it now, other countries are using all the excuses in the world to get out of actually reducing their emissions. And the discussions on mechanisms to help developing countries reduce emissions worry me. Industrialized countries seem to be using these mechanisms as a cheaper way to reduce emissions overseas without doing anything about their own domestic emissions."

Mr. Dennis Bebego from Papua New Guinea agreed. "There are serious changes actually happening now in the Pacific and in other developing countries," Mr. Bebego said. "There's sufficient documentary evidence to warrant action on the Climate Convention's Articles dealing with promises to help countries particularly vulnerable to climate change. This conference should take a specific decision on that one."

He said Pacific island countries were not just sitting back asking for help.

"Eight countries have now fulfilled their Convention commitments by compiling National Communications which detail greenhouse gas emissions, vulnerability to climate change and adaptation options. They are now looking to developed countries to also fulfill their commitments."

For further information contact Ms Jan Sinclair, Tel: (49) 228 633 063; Fax: (49) 228 695 357; Email: sinclairjan@hotmail.com 

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