Category Archives: Relocation

Kiribati and Fiji Presidents and the First Ladies at the State House Mwaneaba

Fiji Supports Kiribati On Sea Level Rise

HE Ratu Epeli Nailatikau delivers his speech during the State House Function in Tarawa, Kiribati

HE Ratu Epeli Nailatikau delivers his speech during the State House Function in Tarawa, Kiribati

Press Release SUVA, Fiji, 11 February 2014

Fiji will ensure that the people of Kiribati have a home if their country is submerged by the rising sea level as a result of climate change, said the President of the Republic of Fiji, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau.

The president made the announcement during his state visit to Kiribati this week, confirming the suggestion made recently by Fiji’s Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, that Fiji would assist Kiribati in any way it could.

If the sea level continues to rise at its current rate, Kiribati, a nation of low lying atolls, faces the likelihood of complete submersion by the end of the century if not sooner, threatening the country’s very existence.

Kiribati has already purchased 6,000 acres of land on Fiji’s second biggest island, Vanua Levu, to ensure its food security as the sea encroaches on its arable land.

Speaking at a state dinner hosted by Kiribati President Anote Tong on Tuesday, the Fijian president announced that some or all of the people of Kiribati would be able to migrate to Fiji with dignity if the need arose.

“Fiji will not turn its back on our  neighbors in their hour of need,” he said. “I want to assure you all that Fiji will stand shoulder to shoulder with you as you  face this crisis, as well as in doing everything possible to try to avert it. In  a worst case scenario and if all else fails, you will not be refugees.”

Such a migration is not without precedent. Fiji has previously accepted the Banaban people when  they were forced to leave Ocean Island – one of Kiribati’s thirty-three islands – because of the  pressure of phosphate mining there.

“These people now live in Fiji but have  their own seat in the parliament of Kiribati and if necessary, we will do it again,” the president said.

“The spirit of the people of Kiribati will  not be extinguished. It will live on somewhere else because a nation isn’t only  a physical place. A nation – and the sense of belonging that comes with it –  exists in the hearts and the minds of its citizens wherever they may be,” he  said.

The president added that Fiji is  especially keen to lead and assist the Pacific region’s effort to persuade the  rest of the world to finally take decisive action on climate change.

“It is simply not acceptable for the world to stand by and watch the republic  of Kiribati – a sovereign nation and a member  of the United Nations – sink slowly beneath the waves,” the President said on  Tuesday.

He said that Fiji is using every possible  means at the United Nations and in its agencies to draw attention to the plight  Pacific island nations face and the selfishness of the big carbon polluters in  putting their interests above all else.

He added that the issue of climate change matters not just to the people of  Kiribati, but to every Pacific Islander.

“For example, in Fiji, we have already had  to move one village altogether out of the way of the rising sea, and a  second will soon be relocated, and a further 676 communities throughout the  nation are threatened in some way” he said.

Read more:  http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/1732761#ixzz2toRgdI9D
Also read: Fiji President visits Kiribati, Fiji will not turn its back on Kiribati,
government land purchase within grasp

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His Excellency President Anote Tong

Climate change a ‘whole nation approach’

During a recent visit to Australia, President Tong spoke with Nic Maclellan from Islands Business about global warming, climate migration, the Pacific Islands Forum and Kiribati’s role in regional fisheries negotiations. 

In 2010, Kiribati hosted an international conference in Tarawa to focus attention on climate impacts in the Pacific. Since then, do you think progress on a global climate treaty has stalled?

Our experience has not been entirely optimistic. After the Copenhagen meeting, there was a lot of disappointment. Much of our disappointment was based on our high expectations of what the outcomes might be. Like any major international treaty, it doesn’t happen overnight, or even after a couple of years or even ten years. I think we have major treaties in place which took decades to conclude. With the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, I don’t think we’ll conclude until we change our approach. It’s always been my contention that we’re dealing with too much detail in a document that’s highly controversial because the issues are very critical to different countries at different levels of development. My view has been to agree on a broad document and then deal with issues on a piecemeal basis. Unless we do that, our hopes for success are very dim. Quite frankly, I’m beginning to think that perhaps we should not put everything in those discussions. Perhaps, we should now begin to explore existing arrangements and simply add provisions into those agreements relating to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change.

Does this mean that negotiations should move from the UNFCCC to another body like the Major Economies Forum or G20 where the members are the major emitters of greenhouse gasses? Will this leave the Alliance of Small Islands States out of the dialogue?

I think the key to all of this is our genuine desire to resolve this. If there is a genuine desire, then we will find a way. Compromise is always possible but there has got to be a genuine desire to compromise. Without this, whatever forum we adopt, it will not work. Whatever agreement the developed countries come to, AOSIS and the other developing countries will find fault with it.

It’s a matter of finding commonalities rather than arguing over controversial issues at this time. We need to build up confidence in the way we want to head, and if we do that, then perhaps the possibilities of reaching consensus might be there.

Read the full story at www.islandsbusiness.com

His Excellency Anote Tong takes the stage in front before the other panelists, and the nation.

Wet weather fails to dampen public hearing spirits

Morning rain did not dampen the mood at Kiribati’s first-ever National High-Level Public Hearing on Climate Change on Friday, where leaders addressed the nation on the importance of everyone working together to build national resilience against climate change impacts.

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Official page of the National High-Level Public Hearing on Climate Change

Thankfully, despite the heavy rain overnight, the skies opened up to permit a late start to the event at Bairiki Square, which coincidentally or not translates from i-Kiribati to English as the “place where things happen”.

President Anote Tong addressed the nation at the National High-Level Public Hearing on Climate Change at Bairiki Square.

President Anote Tong addressed the nation at the National High-Level Public Hearing on Climate Change at Bairiki Square on Friday 19 April, 2013.

His Excellency Anote Tong was the first of 10 panelists to take the stage to address the crowded public square where he reiterated the importance of building both consensus and public understanding of climate change and climate change impacts in Kiribati.

“We must prepare the next generation to address the effects of climate change,” His Excellency said*.

These words were more dramatically reiterated in a moving youth performance by Kiribati Health and Family Association (KHFA) at half-time, where, in the skit, a young girl in tears asks her dad “Dad, what will happen to me and my Kiribati in 50 years time?*”

Next, second panel member Kiribati National Council of Churches Chairman Bishop Paul Mea took the stage.

Bishop Mea told the public, both in attendance and aired live across the country, that climate change was a social issue.

His Excellency Anote Tong takes the stage in front before the other panelists, and the nation.

His Excellency Anote Tong takes the stage in front of other panelists and before the nation.

Human interference continued to contribute to the impacts of climate change, Bishop Mea continued, citing Tarawa causeways Nanikai and Teaoraereke as well as the Dai Nippon contributing to the loss of some of the nation’s islets.

Leader of the Opposition Party (Karikirakean te I-Kiribati Party) Dr Tetaua Taitai next acknowledged climate change as a serious issue, but one that should not be the main priority for Kiribati. Instead the more immediate issues of population growth, overcrowding, water and food security, unemployment, education and health should be first addressed, he said.

He added, where climate change was a focus, more attention was needed to how the nation utilised its own resources with that of external resources and that it was necessary for experts to have a sole focus in the context of Kiribati instead of generalising the nation with the rest of the world.

The public raised questions to the panel in person and via telephone and Facebook throughout the day.

*Please note: quotes have been translated from i-Kiribati to English

For more information, please visit:

Media producer and climate change advocate Linda Uan.

‘I-Kiribati want to migrate with dignity’

Kiribati media producer and climate change advocate Linda Uan’s enlightening opinion piece is receiving international attention, most recently featuring in the Sydney Morning Herald. Read the full article, below…

On an average day we can look out across our lagoons – everything is calm and peaceful, people are fishing and going about their daily business – everything is at it should be and has been for many generations.

But this is very deceptive.  We now know that we are being subjected to a gradual, creeping & insidious process which directly threatens our future and our ability to live in our homeland – our people will be scattered, and the survival of our unique culture, lifestyle and even our language, may be lost forever.

Our awareness of climate change & sealevel rise is relatively new and it was only in the late 90s that our communities started hearing about it. Our people were confused as to how our small, low lying islands in the central Pacific can be affected by the activities of others in the distant developed world.

Media producer and climate change advocate Linda Uan.

Media producer and climate change advocate Linda Uan.

In our traditional village culture, we all understand that if somebody does a wrong, they have to reciprocate for their unacceptable behaviour towards an individual or the community as a whole. We are therefore left puzzled and challenged by the fact that the continued abuse of the environment by wealthy nations means we are the ones who have to suffer.  Our sense of fair play, of right and wrong, and of justice is being severely tested.

In looking at his community’s flooded mwaneaba – meeting house – the Rev. Eria Maere  observes, “Others are reaping the benefits of all these gases and things, but we are paying the price.  It’s too difficult – our kids are worried – where will they be in 10-15 years time?  There is no love for the people of the islands.”

Back in 1999, we assumed that we would all be climbing coconut trees to escape the rising tides which would innundate our tiny islands – but we now know it is not as simple as that.

On average our islands are only 2 or 3 metres above sealevel, and are often less than 800 metres across at the widest point.   Early advice was that we should move away from the coast, but as President Anote Tong has noted, “There is nowhere to move back to – you’ll either be in the lagoon or the ocean.”

What we now experience are more frequent storms which attack our coastal defences, and erode our precious land and crops – whole communities have had to be re-located.   Changing climate patterns have also brought extensive periods of drought, which threaten our vulnerable & scarce fresh water supply.

Rev. Eria Mwaerere and his community's mwaneaba, which is monthly threatened by rising tides.

Rev. Eria Mwaerere and his community’s mwaneaba, which is monthly threatened by rising tides.

The fragile water lens beneath each of our islands is very vulnerable to salt water intrusion.  This happens with all the negative scenarios – when our coasts are eroded by storms, when rising sealevels intrude from beneath, and when drought causes shrinkage of the lens. On top of this we now have major problems with over population on South Tarawa and human induced pollution of our scarce water resource.

Without fresh water, there can be no life – this, along with sea level rise, is the major threat to our existence.

We became more intimately involved with the issue when our video unit, with Australian support, assisted the Government with its presentation at the COP 15 Conference in Copenhagen in 2009.

At that time our President said “Climate Change is the greatest moral challenge of the 21st century.  It calls into question the ability of our international institutions, and our compassion as human beings, to face this issue.  We cannot handle this alone”

Throughout history nations went to war when their sovereignty or survival was threatened, and it was in a similar state of mind that our small platoon went, well armed, to Copenhagen.  With a combination of culture, human observations and the latest that science had to offer, the Kiribati Side Event attracted a large and appreciative audience – there were many tears evident.     We, had given it our best shot.

It is therefore very difficult to describe the feeling of devastation when, in the following week, Pres. Obama and other world leaders gathered.  The degree of cynicism shown by the leaders of the world’s major polluters in torpedoing any chance of a binding agreement on emission levels was astounding.  Their agenda was purely economic and related only to the generation of individual & corporate wealth. We were left with a strong sense of anger, of sadness – and of betrayal.

Now, more than three years later, very little has changed.  In the past month we have learned that new and improved satellite technology has revealed that the oceans may be rising 60 per cent faster than the IPCC’s latest best estimates.  (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research – PIK)

In the meantime the international – and donor – community calls on us to “adapt.”

Yes, we accept that we need to do more to protect our coasts and water resources threatened by thoughtless pollution, but serious and sustained adaptation is a great unknown –it requires major funds and some of the world’s finest minds to point the way.

The majority of I-Kiribati have no wish to live in another country (NTNK Nat Survey, 2011) but mounting evidence suggests that we may soon have little choice in the matter – therefore migration may become the major element of adaptation.

But, there’s a problem.  Unlike our neighbours Tuvalu (Pop: approx 10,000) we have no significant or sympathetic migration relationship or policy with any country.

The current Kiribati population is more than 103,000 (Nat. Census – 2011).   How will the region handle a sudden influx of such large numbers of homeless people?

Very obviously it needs to start now.  In some ways the beginning steps are already underway.  With significant assistance from Australia, the government has commenced a major program of education reform, extending into vocational education which is working towards achieving Australian standards.  These steps come under the desire for I-Kiribati to migrate with dignity and contribute, rather than become a burden on their new hosts.

With regard to Climate Change the world chose not to hear our cry – will it be the same with the issue of migration?

Writing this piece has been quite testing – as a realist I can perhaps see the inevitability of migration.   But on a personal level, I have no wish to live anywhere else – this is my home, this is where my ancestors lie, and this is the only place where I can fully be the person I am – a woman of Kiribati.

His Excellency Anote Tong

‘Sustainable development, climate change inseparable’

Kiribati President His Excellency Anote Tong’s address to the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, January 31- February 2 2013…

 Opening remarks

Every year, we converge here in this beautiful city of Delhi to take stock of our progress towards achieving sustainable development and to continue our quest for the elusive formula needed to remedy the associated challenges including that of climate change. But such a mission would seem impossible if we are not willing to accept that these remedies will come with costs and must call for sacrifice. In other words we want our pie but are also eating it at an ever increasing rate. But ladies and gentlemen the law of balance does not permit that.

Dr. Pachauri, Director General of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI); Dr. Arcot Ramachandran, Chairman of the Governing Council of TERI; Y.E Mr Donald Ramotar, President of Guyana; Y.E Mr. James Alex Michel, President of Seychelles; fellow leaders; distinguished participants; friends from the business communities; ladies and gentleman … Kam na Mauri, Namaskar and Greetings to you all.

Once again I am deeply honoured and grateful for the opportunity to address the 2013 session of the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit. Not only is it a pleasure to meet old friends again and to make new acquaintances but more importantly it provides us with the opportunity to interact as like-minded people, to deliberate on humankind’s ongoing quest for solutions to ensure the survival of our planet and that of humanity.

We would not be all here today if we did not believe in the value of the continuity of life on earth and that it is under serious threat. I have no doubt that we all agree that these threats are global in nature and that their solution calls for collective global action; that the only way forward to make any progress in addressing these challenges, is by acting together, as one global family.  But sadly in spite of our ongoing rhetoric we have up to this moment remained unable to achieve what we set out to accomplish simply because it is not convenient.  But giving up the quest is not an option because the future we want for our children and our children’s children is at stake.

The Future We Want

In June last year at the historical Rio+20 Conference, the world defined and produced the Future We Want document to advocate a stronger case for sustainable development as the way forward to saving the world from the chains of unsustainable and selfish rates of development. In the 20 years since the Earth Summit of 1992, the Future We Want has now become the most important guide in much of the ongoing discussions on sustainable development including those that will take place here at this summit. But once again as with the holy texts we will as individuals and nations have our own interpretations of the Future We Want. And I believe that herein lies the secret to our inability to make progress on this very critical debate – since we come on board the debating stage with our own predetermined mandates based on our individual national priorities as determined by our respective Governments. We are consistently repeating the mistake of believing that the ongoing discussions (negotiations) on global challenges such as sustainable development and climate change are just another opportunity to protect and to ensure that our levels of GDP are not put in jeopardy by any remedies proposed or binding agreements concluded to address these issues.

The Future We Want will unavoidably call for a frank assessment of our international decision making structure. It requires bold but rational political commitment on a global scale. We must be brutally honest in accepting the reality that unless and until we can sit at a single Cabinet meeting table to deliberate on the future we want for our planet and our future generations the prospects for success are bleak indeed. Once again I pose the question “Whose interests are we pursuing? Are we here to secure the future of each other’s children or just our own?”

We no doubt all agree that humankind is a highly complicated species with the capacity to do immense good but also unimaginable evil. History has time and again demonstrated how true this has been as we recall the wonderful deeds of sacrifice of such personalities as Mother Theresa of India, visionary and courageous leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi but at the same time history has witnessed and will forever condemn the horrors which are a product of bad leadership. Today we stand at the crossroad in history to be judged by our action or inaction as leaders and citizens in addressing these critical challenges facing humanity on a global scale.

I believe that The Future We Want must acknowledge and address the special need of those at the extreme end of the vulnerability scale. Countries like Kiribati and the Maldives and other small islands grappling with the challenges of climate change while at the same time struggling to meet MDG commitments. For countries on the frontline of the climate change challenge, sustainable development and climate change are inseparable. Our uncertain future is a clear and loud statement on the urgent need for resolving the debate on sustainable development – of what we as a global community have failed to do.

Even at the risk of repeating myself, I would like to refer to our initiative in closing off 400,000 square km of our EEZ from commercial fishing activities. The Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) is our contribution to global oceans conservation efforts which has now been listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO. Following on from that in 2010 the Pacific Oceanscape was adopted as a regional initiative of the Pacific Island nations. In 2011 and 2012 other Pacific countries including the Cook Islands, New Caledonia, Tokelau, Australia and the adjoining Pacific waters of the United States have been designated marine protected as components of the Pacific Oceanscape. At the Rio + 20 Conference the World Bank also launched the Global Oceans Partnership program thereby adding momentum to what began as a national initiative. The momentum is growing as more countries in the Pacific are considering making similar commitments. My purpose in raising this issue is twofold – the first is simply to demonstrate that establishing such global conservation initiatives are achievable; the second is to note that this has been achieved without prolonged and contentious negotiations.

Post 2015 and where to from here?

The most important question challenging us today at this summit is whether our ongoing efforts in addressing the issues of sustainable development and climate change remain relevant and (or indeed) effective?

From the perspective of a small island (but large ocean state) like Kiribati my answer would be no. The next question is “what are the chances of positive progress in ever concluding an agreement on climate change?” Very little I would answer. So do we perish as a species?

Ladies and gentlemen let me share with you some of the thoughts which have flashed through my mind in moments of frustration and desperation. And I do take full responsibility if they may come across as being radical and unrealistic. I dream of having a broad (without details) agreement on issues over which there is consensus based on science. I believe we all agree that no one wants to destroy this planet. Based on this broad consensus I believe we could examine existing international agreements with the objective of adding climate change and sustainable development components where there are none or giving greater force to those clauses drafted by those visionary people who at the time had no conclusive information on climate change that we do today.

Existing international arrangements in maritime transportation for example have provisions dealing with polluting of the marine environment but none restricting the continued use of inefficient marine engines to set acceptable levels of GHG emissions. We in the Western and Central Tuna fisheries as (Pacific Island countries) Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) have unilaterally set some conditions of access into our EEZ which may not conform strictly  with the existing provisions of UNCLOS but which we believe to be very much in the spirit of UNCLOS which enshrines the principle of protecting the commons. I believe that if we take the opportunity to scrutinize other international agreements in trade, aviation and others we may well find a pathway which may be less contentious than the current UNFCCC negotiations. As I said these are just desperate propositions born of desperation and frustration. I challenge all of us here especially TERI to give it a look but I take full responsibility if it turns out to be a silly proposition.

Closing remarks

Mr. Chair, I look forward to the discussions that will unfold here today and in the next few days of this summit. Before I take my seat, I want to take this opportunity to thank TERI, the Board of Directors and of course Dr. Pachauri for remaining faithful to this cause and maintaining pressure for solutions.  I also extend my gratitude to the Government and people of India for the warmth and the kind hospitality extended to us since our arrival into this great city.

In conclusion I wish the 2013 DSDS deliberations every success and I extend and share with you our traditional blessings of Te Mauri (Health), Te Raoi(Peace) ao Te Tabomoa (Prosperity). Kam rabwa.

For more information visit the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit website.

President Anote Tong with Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma

Secretary-General visits Kiribati

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma outlines new areas of Commonwealth assistance and support to Kiribati after his recent visit…

Kiribati is a highly valued member of the Commonwealth. The purpose of my first official visit to Kiribati was to have direct exchanges with the leadership as to the country’s priorities, the challenges it faces, and to identify the partnership which the Commonwealth can offer.

I was honoured to be received so warmly during my visit, and I depart with great appreciation and a deeper understanding of Kiribati’s aspirations and the challenges posed by geography, human and natural resource constraints, and climate change.

My discussions covered many areas of the Commonwealth’s work as a trusted and collaborative partner in advancing our core values of democracy, development and respect for diversity.

During this visit, I had the honour of calling on the President, HE Anote Tong, and Vice-President and Minister of Internal and Social Affairs Hon Teima Onorio. I also met the Minister of Communication, Transport and Tourism Development Hon Taberannang Timeon; Minister of Public Works and Utilities Hon Kirabuke Teiaua; Minister of Commerce, Industries and Co-operatives Hon Pinto Katia; and Minister of Environment and Agricultural Development Hon Tiarite Kwong.

I also had meetings with former President Hon Teburoro Tito, and the Speaker of the House of Assembly Hon Taomati Iuta.

Read what the Secretary-General had to say on climate change and Kiribati at thecommonwealth.org

 

The I-Kiribati people live with the sea regularly threatening their homes, particularly during king tides and storms both occuring with increased frequency.  Photo: Finn Frandsen, Politiken

A call to the world

The tiny Central Pacific nation of Kiribati will be among those first affected by the twin effects of climate change and sea level rise. It’s people have been described as “the most vulnerable of the vulnerable.”

Please watch this eloquent and powerful presentation of what this small nation is facing, as its culture, lifestyle, and very sovereignty is under threat.

It is an appeal to the World and COP 15 from those most affected – the Government & people of Kiribati.