The report, ‘Hungry for Justice, Thirsty for Change - State of the Environment for Oceania’ was produced by Caritas Australia in partnership with Caritas Aotearoa and Caritas Tonga. Caritas is the international aid and development agency of the Catholic Church and one of the largest humanitarian networks in the world.
The report documents the experiences of Pacific Islanders who are struggling with the impacts of climate change.
Pope Francis’ release last year of his encyclical letter on human ecology, Laudato Si’ (“Praise be to you”) on the Care of Our Common Home, was a defining moment for the Catholic Church. It included the invitation for the global community to heed ‘the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.’
This is also the Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, in which the Church has been called to consider what more can be done to reach out to our neighbours in need. We respond to Christ who says In Matthew 25 - “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; thirsty and you gave me something to drink.”
Over the last twelve months the Pacific - a region known for an abundance of food and water- has been hit by multiple big weather events, supercharged by El Niño. This has affected approximately five million people across thirteen countries*, leading to food and water shortages, malnutrition, and, in some extreme cases, death.
"In my own country Kiribati, climate change is threatening our very way of life. We are experiencing food and water shortages and sea-level rising – the reality is that our children will have to leave our homeland," Report Ambassador, Maria Tiimon said.
Rising sea levels and coastal erosion, have left the main hospital of the Solomon Islands in need of relocation, a project that is set to cost $US 100 million. On four separate occasions patients, including the critically ill and mothers and babies, have had to be evacuated after the hospital was inundated by water.
In response to these challenges, communities across the Pacific are showing incredible resilience and leadership with 14 countries across Oceania ratifying the 2015 Paris Agreement. Caritas Australia welcomes the Australian Government’s recent announcement that it will ratify the Paris Agreement by the end of year and is calling for the country’s dependency on fossil fuels to end.
“Australia needs to honour the promises that were made in Paris and set emission targets that are in line with limiting the rise in global temperatures to well below 1.5oC,” Paul O’Callaghan, Caritas Chief Executive Officer said.
Caritas is also calling on the Government to make more funds available for vulnerable Pacific countries to adapt to climate change.
“Countries across Oceania are among those most affected by climate change even though they have contributed minimally to its causes. Australia needs to contribute its fair share of funding to support vulnerable countries to adapt to climate change, over and above the existing aid budget.”
“As the world works to solve the climate change crisis it is critical that the voices of Pacific Islanders continue to be heard.” Caritas is calling on the Australian public to speak up in solidarity with our Pacific neighbours. Send a letter to your MP and Senators, urging them for stronger climate action, at www.caritas.org.au/hungryforjustice-act.