Kiribati may be the first country to disappear

Tebunginako villagers stand in the sea where their village used to be. They had to relocate their village because of rising sea levels, erosion and saltwater inundation. Photo: Justin McManus/The Age

Tebunginako villagers stand in the sea where their village used to be. They had to relocate their village because of rising sea levels, erosion and saltwater inundation. Photo: Justin McManus/The Age

The Pacific Island nation of Kiribati may be the first country to disappear under the rising sea levels of climate change.

Its people fear their homeland may become the world’s next Atlantis.

As our boat nears the shore, the dark shadows beneath the sea sharpen into focus. Chiselled coral stones, organized neatly into rows, glisten from the reef of this shallow cove.

We are drifting over the foundation of the surrendered neighbourhoods of Tebunginako. The village was once home to more than 200 households, but today it lies beneath several metres of turquoise water.

“We used to swim out there to see the ships when we were boys. They’d tie them up to the coconut trees just over here,” explains the Mayor, pointing enthusiastically as we coast over the remains of his town. Locals say Tebunginako was once the island’s main harbor – before the rising sea swallowed its coast.

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KAPIII Mid Term Review

 

Mid Term Review Team during wrap up meeting

Mid Term Review Team during wrap up meeting

The Government of Kiribati, The World Bank Team together with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT – Australia) conducted a Mid-Term Review on the Kiribati Adaptation Program Phase – III (KAPIII) from 30 Oct to 6 Nov 2014.

Consultations was carried out with major key stakeholders like the Office of Te Beretitenti, Ministry of Public Works and Utilities, Ministry of Environment Lands and Agricultural Development , Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Public Utilities Board and others.

KAPIII was implemented since March 2012 and it has been two and half years since its official commencement date.

The mission highlighted some of the achievements which included the substantial implementation of the leak measurement and detection program on the PUB transmission main, confirming locations for the abstraction galleries that witnessed land owners sign the voluntary land use agreement in North Tarawa, completed designs for rainwater harvesting systems based on community consultations, engagement of a Water Governance advisor assisting the GoK Task Force to address issues on both Bonriki and Buota Water Reserve to name a few.

One of the many positive outcomes of the mission was that the Government of Kiribati has confirmed its determination to complete the project on time (i.e. through 31 August 2016) and within budget. It also endorsed strengthening the management to undertake the large remaining tasks, including completing the seawalls, leak repairs, rain water harvesting and abstraction galleries using local contractors. Overall the outcome of the KAPIII mid-term review had been productive.

Small island nations must unite or drown in rising seas

 

The Island of Abaiang. Much of the archipelago is not more than a few meters above sea level. Photo: Justin McManus, The Age

The Island of Abaiang in Kiribati. Much of the archipelago is not more than a few meters above sea level. Photo: Justin McManus, The Age

The president of the Seychelles has urged the planet’s small island nations to unite for an unprecedented campaign against climate change or else drown.

The rallying call came at the start of a two-day summit of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), a coalition of small island and low-lying coastal countries, to prepare for global climate talks to take place in Lima, Peru in December.

“Too often the world has chosen to ignore us; too often we are treated as bystanders,” said Seychelles president James Michel, whose Indian Ocean island nation is hosting the meeting.

“Let us be heard on every beach and every roadside – let us be heard in Beijing, in Delhi, in Johannesburg, in London, in Moscow, in New York, in Paris, in Rio.

“Let us be heard in every village, in every town, in every city of the world; let us be heard on the airwaves.

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Kiribati is faced with sea level rise impacts now

Tebunginako villagers stand in the sea where their village used to be. They had to relocate their village because of rising sea levels, erosion and saltwater inundation. Photo: Justin McManus, The Age

Tebunginako villagers stand in the sea where their village used to be. They had to relocate their village because of rising sea levels, erosion and saltwater inundation. Photo: Justin McManus, The Age

The leader of the small Pacific island nation of Kiribati, which is threatened by rising oceans, appealed for greater international efforts to come up with solutions as people in some low-lying areas of the world are forced to relocate. The Desert Sun, reports.

Kiribati’s president, Anote Tong, spoke after a three-day retreat at the Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage, which was led by Prince Albert II of Monaco and focused on the problems of sea level rise and the growing acidity of the world’s oceans.

Tong pointed out that based on scientific predictions of sea level rise, the coral atolls that make up his homeland will be underwater within a century.

“We have nowhere else to go,” Tong said in an interview after the retreat. “We already have communities which have had to relocate because what was their home was no longer there. And so we are feeling impacts now already.”

Tong’s government recently bought land in Fiji, and has been considering a variety of potential ways for the country of about 100,000 people to adapt. Some people have already moved to New Zealand, expecting growing problems with flooding and water supplies in the coming years.

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Pacific countries already feeling the effects of climate change

Local IKiribati children face an uncertain future as their islands' capacity to support the population diminishes. Photo: Finn Frandsen, Politiken

Local IKiribati children face an uncertain future as their islands’ capacity to support the population diminishes. Photo: Finn Frandsen, Politiken

If reactions from the recent UN Climate Change summit are anything to go by, the world is progressing to having concrete climate change legislation by the next climate summit in Paris in 2015, says Kiribati President Anote Tong. Fiji Times, reports.

But he acknowledges this is not enough because Pacific countries are already feeling the effects of climate change and must make themselves as resilient as possible.

He said he saw a radical change in position at the UN Climate Change Summit in New York last week.

“The recent meeting was very satisfying because there has been a radical change in the positions of many countries, particularly the US, and they are coming on very strong and with the US taking that position, it is very possible that the rest will follow, perhaps even China,” President Tong said at a press conference in Suva on Wednesday. “But that is not enough.”

He said affected atoll island nations all supported the push for legislation on climate change but also needed to begin their own fight.

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Announcements positive for tackling climate change as UN summit comes to an end

Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon adressing the Climate Change Summit 2014, 23 September 2014. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon adressing the Climate Change Summit 2014, 23 September 2014. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Bold new actions to immediately tackle climate change were announced today by Government, business, finance and civil society leaders attending a historic Climate Summit convened by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has long urged workable solutions based on “clear vision anchored in domestic and multinational actions.” UN News Centre reports.

“Today was a great day – a historic day. Never before have so many leaders gathered to commit to action on climate change,” Mr. Ban said, summing up the day-long event,which drew a unique mix of international players who announced their vision and commitment for reaching a universal and meaningful climate agreement in 2015, as well made announcements on actions that will reduce emissions, enhance resistance to climate change and mobilize financing for climate action.

“The Summit delivered,” declared the UN chief, noting that leaders had reaffirmed determination to limit global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius by cutting emissions. And many, from all regions and all levels of economic development, advocated for a peak in greenhouse gas emissions before 2020, decisively reduced emissions thereafter, and climate neutrality in the second half of this century.

On finance, the Secretary-General said public and private sources showed the way forward for mobilizing the needed resources. Leaders expressed strong support for the Green Climate Fund. And a total of $2.3 billion was pledged towards the Fund’s initial capitalization today, and others committed contributions by November 2014.

“A new coalition of Governments, business, finance, multilateral development banks and civil society leaders announced their commitment to mobilize upwards of $200 billion for financing low-carbon and climate-resilient development,” he said, adding that private banks announced they would issue $20 billion in “Green Bonds” and that they would double the market to $50 billion by 2015, next year.

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Kiribati participates in World Environment Day celebrations

A special report from the Kiribati Embassy in Taiwan

Taipei, Taiwan, 12 June 2014

The Kiribati Ambassador to Taiwan Her Excellency Teekoa Iuta was amongst a crowd of diplomats, government dignitaries and environmental enthusiasts who gathered last week in Taipei to celebrate the 2014 World Environment Day.

Themed as “Raise our voice, not sea level rise” the 2014 World Environment Day acknowledges the plight of the small island developing states. For countries like Kiribati such a plight focuses on environmental issues and challenges such as climate change.

“For me, and my brothers and sisters from the Pacific countries I give thanks to the decision by the Republic of China (Taiwan) through its Environment Protection Agency (EPA) to work with the Pacific Island countries in honouring the 2014 World Environment Day.” Kiribati’s Ambassador to Taiwan, Her Excellency Teekoa Iuta said in her statement during the World Environment Day celebrations.

In her remarks, Ambassador Iuta said that Kiribati has continually voiced its concerns at regional and global climate change forums with their debates and arguments taking many forms.

“In the early years we voiced our anger and blamed the world for the dangers to our islands and threats to our lives. But over the years we realized we cannot achieve much if we do not take charge of our situation but leave it to others. Thus we collaborated together and implored on the justice and morality of mankind to work together to save our planet earth for it is our moral responsibility to do so for our children and our grandchildren.” Ambassador Iuta said.

Iuta added by elaborating on some of the actions taken by Kiribati to address the issue of climate change which includes re-planting of mangroves to protect the shoreline, establishment of a Parliamentary Climate Change Committee that will assist government in coordinating and implementing climate change and environment development plans, creating the Phoenix Islands Protected Area which is closed-off from fishing and other extractive activities to name but a few.

“Taiwan has been a strong and committed friend in our endevour to combat challenges of climate change and I acknowledge the visible and invaluable assistance provided to Kiribati through agriculture and aquaculture projects offered by the Taiwan Technical Mission and also of the provision of solar lamps for our schoold children and rural communities among other assistances.” Iuta said.

Minister Wei from the Environment Protection Agency said very little is known about the environmental challenges faced by small island developing states, specifically the very serious and real threat of climate change to countries like Kiribati and Tuvalu and hopes that this year’s World Environment Day will be the beginning of more public awareness within the Taiwan public.

Kiribati and Taiwan established diplomatic relations in 2003 and ever since Kiribati has been advocating the full membership of Taiwan in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Obama welcomes Kiribati diplomat

Kiribati familyBairiki, Tarawa – 27 May 2014

The President of the United States of America, His Excellency Barack Obama welcomed Kiribati’s Ambassador to the United States – Her Excellency Makurita Baaro, at the White House Oval Office in a Presentation of Credential ceremony last week.

During the ceremony, Ambassador Baaro conveyed the warm greetings of President Anote Tong, the Government and people of Kiribati to President Obama and his family and through him to the Government and people of the United States.

Ambassador Baaro highlighted the importance that Kiribati accords to its historic ties and relationship with the Government and people of the United States and her commitment and that of her country to work on strengthening these diplomatic and people to people ties during her tenure as Kiribati Ambassador to the United States.

Ambassador Baaro also highlighted during the credentials ceremony the challenges facing her people from climate change and the need for global action to address the plight of frontline states like Kiribati who are now experiencing these challenges from rise in sea levels, coastal erosion, ocean acidification and the growing brackishness of ground water sources.

“We are doing what we can at the national level to address these challenges but Kiribati just cannot do it alone,” She added.

Ambassador Baaro emphasized that “This is one challenge that is larger than any of us and one that requires collective global action. We look to the global leadership of the United States of America to assist frontline states like Kiribati to mobilise and gain the much needed traction for global action to address the climate calamity that is not only affecting us. It is affecting us now but will eventually affect the whole global community.”

In extending a warm welcome to Ambassador Baaro, President Obama said that “your presence in the United States is very timely because of the compelling and sobering story Kiribati has to share with the world regarding the threat climate change poses to your people. As Ambassador to United States and Permanent Representative to the UN, I encourage you to be a strong advocate for an ambitious global response to climate change.”

President Obama added that “The United States stands with you in this mission, both for the sake of your people’s posterity and ours”

Ambassador Makurita Baaro is the first resident Kiribati Ambassador accredited to the United States of America.

The very first Kiribati Roving Ambassador to the United States was His Excellency Atanraoi Baiteke who was also the first Secretary for Foreign Affairs for Kiribati after the country gained independence in 1979.

Kiribati and the United States enjoy a close relationship since establishing diplomatic relations in 1980. The two countries work closely together on a broad range of issues, from strengthening regional security, to promoting sustainable development and addressing climate change, to protecting fisheries and the environment.

Kiribati buys a piece of Fiji

From_mgrs_house_nuts_pastures_river

Piece of the land in Fiji

OB – Press Release

Kiribati’s Head of State – President Anote Tong made the announcement last week confirming that government has made the final payment for the purchase of the AUD$9.3 million Natoavatu Estate located in Fiji’s second biggest island of Vanua Levu.

“I wish to officially announce that government has come to a final resolve and has made the full purchase of the piece of land in Fiji.” President Tong said in his address to the nation on national radio last Friday.

Tong added that government sent a team earlier this month, comprising of the Minister of Environment, Lands and Agriculture Development and the Attorney General, to settle the purchase of the land with the Fiji authorities.

The team were assured the Certificate of Title for the Natoavatu Estate after all requirements were met and a transaction of the final payment of AUD$8.3 million was witnessed before the previous land owners – The Trustees for the Colony of Fiji of the Church of England and the Fiji authorities.

Tong said that the acquisition of the 5460-acre piece of land marks a new milestone in government’s development plans particularly in its endeavor to address its economic and food security issues as it is greatly impacted by climate change.

“I’m glad we’ve taken this milestone with Fiji and hope that developed countries can engage with frontline countries like us in this arena, as a matter of taking simple actions rather than negotiating climate change issues where common ground is far from reach.” President Tong added.

Earlier this year, President of the Republic of Fiji, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau met with his Kiribati counterpart on Kiribati shores where he assured “that the people of Kiribati will have a home if their country is submerged by the rising sea level as a result of climate change.

The Fiji President made the announcement confirming the suggestion made earlier by Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, that Fiji would assist Kiribati in any way it could.

The land purchase of the Natoavatu Estate is an investment by the government to explore options of commercial, industrial and agricultural undertakings such as fish canning, beef/poultry farming, fruit/vegetable farming to name but a few.

Small islands’ commitment towards climate change

Sea wall in the village of Eita on the island of Tarawa. Photo: Justin McManus, The Age

Sea wall in the village of Eita on the island of Tarawa. Photo: Justin McManus, The Age

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today (2 April 2014) praised the commitment by small islands in the Pacific to low-carbon development and urged them to continue their ambitious efforts to combat climate change and spur other nations to come to a binding agreement on this issue next year, UN News Centre, Reports.

“Because you are on the front lines, you know that we are at a pivotal moment and that more needs to be done. You know that the world’s appetite for energy continues to grow, and the global thermostat continues to rise,” Mr. Ban said in his message to the Pacific launch of the UN Decade of Sustainable Energy for All, which took place in Fiji.

While Mr. Ban noted that small island nations face special challenges, such as rising sea levels, restricted markets and high energy prices due to their remote location, he also highlighted successful initiatives that are helping these countries achieve sustainable development.

“The Pacific Islands are demonstrating real global leadership in our shared efforts to make a much-needed transition to a new era in energy use and production,” he said. “Tokelau has become the first territory in the world to generate 100 per cent of its power from renewable energy, while our host, the government of Fiji, is demonstrating its commitment to support sustainable energy for all through concrete actions. These and other efforts are helping to point the way to a sustainable future.”

The period from 2014 to 2024 has been declared by the UN General Assembly as the Decade for Sustainable Energy for All and two years ago, Mr. Ban launched his Sustainable Energy for All initiative, which seeks to achieve three inter-linked goals by 2030: universal access to modern energy, doubling energy efficiency, and doubling the share of renewable energy, thus providing services such as lighting, clean cooking and mechanical power in developing countries, as well as improved energy efficiency, especially in the world’s highest-energy consuming countries.

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