Pacific islanders feeling the full force of climate change

By KARL WILSON in Sydney | China Daily | Updated: 2023-05-03 07:54
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A chainsaw is used on a fallen tree in Port Vila, Vanuatu, after a cyclone swept through the Pacific island nation in March. MATT HARDWICK/AP

Sangmin Nam, director of ESCAP's Environment and Development Division, said greenhouse gas, or GHG, emissions in the Asia-Pacific region rose by 25 percent from 2010 to 2019, or more than 100 percent from the levels in 1990.

"This trend results in the region sharing more than half of the global emissions and continuing to expand the global share," he said. "The major sources of GHG emissions in the region are electricity and heating, manufacturing and construction, and transportation."

He said electricity and heating account for the bulk of energy emissions in the region, and 38 percent of total emissions, which is higher than emissions from electricity and heating in the rest of the world.

"Carbon dioxide emissions from transportation in the region have risen by more than 200 percent over the past three decades. … The region's share of global transportation emissions has also risen, from 14 percent to 27 percent, from 1990 to 2018," he said.

However, many sectoral trends regarding climate change are now being reversed. "There is a positive sign," he added.

"During the past three years, about 80 percent of Asia-Pacific countries announced carbon neutrality or net zero targets, showing the increasing readiness of countries to start deep emissions reduction sooner than initially planned."

In Papua New Guinea, Jacob Ekinye, adaptation and project division manager of the Climate Change and Development Authority, said climate change is an ongoing issue and it will take time and effort for local people to cope with climate impact.

He was speaking at a media conference while presenting Papua New Guinea's 2022-30 National Adaptation Plan, which addresses priority areas, such as warning systems, awareness and education for communities.

"The National Adaptation Plan, a way forward for Papua New Guinea to cope with climate change, is intended to enhance adaptive capacities, increase resilience and reduce the level of vulnerability to the adverse effects of climate change felt by our people," Ekinye was quoted as saying last month by Papua New Guinea newspaper The National.

A lack of safe drinking water is another persistent problem for the nation. Borehole supply is one of the options to address this problem in the nation's capital Port Moresby, the PNG Post-Courier, another newspaper based in the city, reported.

At a recent water event in Port Moresby, National Capital District Governor Powes Parkop was quoted by Post-Courier Online as saying: "Water, as we all know, is still a big issue in the city. I have been here 16 years and I cannot solve it."

In December, the Chinese embassy in Port Moresby donated new laptops to the Climate Change and Development Authority of Papua New Guinea.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that vulnerable communities, such as those in the Pacific, who have historically contributed the least to current climate change are disproportionately affected by it.

Rachael Beaven, director of ESCAP's Statistics Division, said the Asia-Pacific region is home to six of the top 10 global carbon emitters, contributing to more than half the world's total greenhouse gases. It is also highly vulnerable to climate-induced disasters and extreme weather events.

She said ESCAP estimates the region's annual losses due to climate-induced disasters at $675 billion, with disproportionate impacts on the most vulnerable groups — many of them living in the region.

Wesley Morgan, a senior researcher for the Climate Council, a climate research organization based in Australia, said, "Pacific island countries have been crystal clear for decades that climate change is their greatest security threat.

"Compared with geostrategic competition, the impacts of a warming planet — stronger cyclones, devastating floods, rising seas and dying reefs — are more immediate threats," he said in a commentary in July for the academic website The Conversation.

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