Pacific Voices: Climate action needed at the heart of Pacific Step Up

30 November 2019
Caritas Tonga staff distributing water to climate change affected communities. Image: Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand.


Ahead of next week’s UN climate summit, Pacific Island voices are highlighting the need for climate action to be front and centre of the Australian government’s Pacific Step Up.

The 2019 Caritas State of the Environment for Oceania Report shows that in the last year, extreme weather events such as cyclones and floods destroyed hundreds of homes, displaced thousands of people and created food shortages. Communities saw the ongoing erosion of their coastlines and infrastructure due to rising seas.

“When coastlines are being eroded, hospitals and other essential infrastructure being destroyed or damaged, and water sources being poisoned, we know we are facing a true emergency in our region,” Nic Nelson, Caritas Australia’s Director of Advocacy and Communications said.

“If Australia wants to be seen as a good neighbour in the Pacific region, then it needs to step up in this regard, putting words into action by committing more funding to climate change adaptation strategies.”

Each year, the Caritas State of the Environment for Oceania Report gathers personal accounts of Pacific people and communities experiencing changes in their climate and environment. It examines five issues affecting people’s lives: extreme weather, impacts on food and water, coastal erosion and sea level rise, offshore mining and drilling, and climate finance.

The report also highlights actions needed from the Australian Government and others to respond to climate change.

“We are in a critical year for action on climate change,” says Mr Nelson. “Australia needs to step up our leadership on climate. We need to deliver on the commitments we made under the Paris Agreement.

“Firstly, our Pacific neighbours are looking to us for real action to reduce emissions at home. Secondly, we should be providing Australia’s fair share of global climate finance – that’s funding to help countries like our Pacific neighbours tackle climate change. These are two basic aspects of climate justice. It’s also just being a good neighbour,” said Mr Nelson.

One of the key issues at next week’s climate summit will be climate finance. In 2019, the Prime Minister announced that Australia would stop contributing to the Green Climate Fund, the globally agreed vehicle for providing climate finance. This puts us at odds with almost every other country in the Paris Agreement. Caritas Australia urges the Australian government to re-instate its funding for the Green Climate Fund.

The report was published by the Caritas agencies of Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and Tonga.

For an interactive map of this year’s stories, visit

With thanks to Caritas Australia.


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