Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Australia's help key to Pacific's survival

As leaders gather in Cairns for today’s Pacific Leaders Forum, WWF is urging Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his regional counterparts to focus on building partnerships to avoid dangerous climate change and pledge funding for adaptation to the changes already under way.

With the livelihoods in the Pacific at risk from climate change, WWF is urging the Australian Government to work with its nearest neighbours and help develop and finance a survival masterplan for the worst affected island states.

WWF’s work in the Coral Triangle has shown that countries such as Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and the Solomon Islands will need to adapt to dramatic changes to the marine environment, as well as to the effects on the livelihoods of nearly 100 million people.

The Coral Triangle, just one per cent of the planet’s surface, includes 30 per cent of the world’s coral reefs, 76 per cent of its reef building coral species and more than 35 per cent of its coral reef fish species as well as vital spawning grounds for other economically important fish such as tuna.

“Millions of people risk losing their homes and livelihoods unless drastic steps are taken to protect this region’s rich marine and coastal resources” said Mr Richard Leck, Climate Strategy Leader, WWF Coral Triangle.

“Climate change is happening now and the effects are already being felt across the region,” said WWF-Australia CEO Greg Bourne.

“Unless we want to push our neighbours closer and closer to the brink, Australia must do all it can to reduce the effects of climate change and build partnerships to help people adapt,” said Mr Bourne.

“It is not enough to simply talk about cooperation. Our Pacific neighbours need an ally who will work hard to create a strong deal that will see developed countries make an aggregate reduction in emissions of at least 40 per cent by 2020.”

Also critical to a strong deal will be a commitment by developed countries to provide annual financial commitments of around US$160 billion to help developing countries with mitigation and adaptation. The Pacific Leaders Forum provides the Australian Government with a perfect opportunity to reveal what it is willing to contribute.

Many countries in the region are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Penina Moce, from Kabara Island, Fiji, is a WWF Climate Witness. Moce is already seeing the effects of climate change first hand.

“We have begun to notice that the fish and shellfish we used to be able to gather so easily are getting harder to find. We used to catch enough fish in the shallows. But now we have to go further out.

There also used to be colourful, live coral from the edge of the beach out to the reef. But now everything has gone white” said Ms Moce.

 “Only strong and effective global and regional action can help protect us from the effects of climate change,” said Mr Bourne.

"The Australian Government must provide a platform for our Pacific neighbours to have their voices and concerns heard at Copenhagen. It is wrong to think that any nation can solve this problem on their own. The future of hundreds of millions of people hangs in the balance and we need governments to work together to tackle this immense problem.”

For more testimonies and information on WWF’s Climate Witness program, please visit: http://www.panda.org/about_our_earth/aboutcc/problems/people_at_risk/personal_stories/



• The Coral Triangle is the most diverse marine region on the planet, matched in its importance to life on Earth only by the Amazon rainforest and the Congo basin. Defined by marine areas containing more than 500 species of reef-building coral, it covers around 6 million square kilometres of ocean across six countries in the Indo-Pacific – Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, and Timor-Leste.

• The Coral Triangle also directly sustains the lives of more than 120 million people and contains key spawning and nursery grounds for tuna, while healthy reef and coastal systems underpin a growing tourism sector. WWF is working with other NGOs, multilateral agencies and governments around the world to support conservation efforts in the Coral Triangle for the benefit of all.

• The Coral Triangle Initiative (CTI) on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food is a new six-nation initiative to secure the future of marine resources in the region. See www.cti-secretariat.net for more information.

• For information on Coral Triangle go to: www.panda.org/coraltriangle

For further information:

Richard Leck, Climate Strategy Leader, WWF Coral Triangle Programme Tel. +61 7 3211 2521 Email: rleck@wwf.org.au

Lida Pet Soede, Leader, WWF Coral Triangle Programme Tel. +62 812 381 8742 Email: lpet@wallacea.wwf.or.id

Paolo P. Mangahas, Communications Manager, Tel: +60 3 7803 3772 Email: pmangahas@ywwf.org.my



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