INDONESIA MAY ‘RENT’ ISLANDS TO CLIMATE REFUGEES

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INDONESIA MAY ‘RENT’ ISLANDS TO CLIMATE REFUGEES Atoll countries may have no option but to relocate

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, June 3, 2009) – Indonesia is considering renting some of its islands to people fleeing Pacific territories as climate change raises sea levels.

The Indonesian Maritime Minister's proposal comes as a report this week reinforces the need to accommodate increasing numbers of people forecast to be displaced by climate change.

Pacific Island nations are among the hardest hit by rising sea levels.

The Global Humanitarian Forum's report says more than half the region's population lives within 1.5 kilometres of the shore and people are already leaving Tuvalu for New Zealand.

'300,000 deaths'

The forum blames climate change for the deaths of 300,000 people each year.

It says 300 million people have been seriously affected by the phenomenon and it costs the world $US125 billion a year.

The organisation, set up by former UN secretary-general Kofi Anan, claims this is the first report exclusively focused on the global human impact of climate change.

Dr John Church, from Australia's CSIRO scientific research organisation, says satellite measurements since 1993 show the rate of rise as oceans warm as more than twice the average during the rest of the 20th century.

Damien Lawson, national climate justice coordinator for Friends of the Earth Australia, says the human cost will rise with the seas.

Forced to relocate

He told Radio Australia's Connect Asia program: "And that's why people in places like the Carterets (Papua New Guinea islands) are being forced to relocate already and this is just the beginning of the climate change we expect to see this century."

The Indonesian solution is to rent some of its 10,000 uninhabited islands to those whose island homes are being inundated.

The Solomon Islands knows the effect of storm surges, blamed by some on climate change. But permanent secretary of Home Affairs, Mr. Fred Fakari, says the Solomons - which has uninhabited smaller islands - will look after its own.

"Maybe other places like Nauru, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu may consider that option to find somewhere on those islands in Indonesia," he says.

Desperate

But Friends of the Earth's Mr. Lawson says Indonesia's idea is worth considering.

"People in the Maldives, people in Tuvalu and Kiribati, don't want to leave their countries but they want to put in place an alternative" if the situation worsens, he says.

"It may seem strange and in some sense almost desperate, but it's an indication of how serious the problem is."

Secretary-general of Indonesia's Maritime Affairs Ministry, Dr Syamsul Maarif, says the idea must first pass through his country's government.

But he believes Indonesia will acknowledge a responsibility to help small island communities facing the plight of rising sea levels.

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