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By Erin Handley
Fijian man Kelepi Saukitoga is planning to move house. He has no choice — the ocean is lapping at his doorstep.
His house, in the village of Narikoso on Ono Island in Fiji, is where his grandparents grew up.
The villagers have planted mangroves and tried to build a seawall out of rocks, but the island is becoming inundated as the tide rises.
Saukitoga's house falls in an area severely prone to rising sea levels and it is a danger for his children, he told the ABC, as the sounds of his grandchild playing could be heard in the background.
"We're looking forward to the relocation because we're not looking after ourselves, but just we care about my children and my future generation."
Twenty million displaced each year
Saukitoga is one of the 20 million people internally displaced each year by climate change, according to a new Oxfam briefing paper.
People are now three times more likely to be forced from their homes by climate-fuelled disasters than by conflict, according to the charity's analysis, which found a person was internally displaced due to climate change every two seconds.
A graph showing an exponential rise in climate disasters displacing people, a line showing conflict displacement is constant. Those figures would include Australians who have lost their homes in bushfires.
The Forced from Home briefing paper — Oxfam's analysis of Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre data — was released as the United Nations climate summit COP25 kicked off in Spain on Monday.
Eighty per cent of those displaced by climate change live in Asia, and the Pacific is particularly at risk, according to the paper.
"It is the world's poorest countries and communities, which bear little responsibility for global carbon pollution, that face the highest risk of climate-fuelled displacement," the Oxfam report says.
It says extreme weather is the single biggest driver of internal displacement worldwide, but the number of refugees from conflict is also rising, and there is "increasing evidence that the climate crisis is exacerbating instability in many regions … and increasing the risk of conflict in the future".
In Tuvalu tropical cyclones have displaced 4.5 per cent of the population, while in Fiji Cyclone Winston in 2016 impacted 350,000 people, destroyed 24,000 homes, and cost the country one-fifth of its GDP in disaster-response funding.
Fiji has since proposed the ambitious Climate Change Act, and has earmarked more than 80 communities for relocation.
The now-abandoned village of Vunidogoloa is a case in point, the Oxfam report says, for "how even the carefully planned relocation of a small community a short distance from its ancestral land can create considerable challenges".
Amid rising sea levels, Kiribati has also purchased a portion of land in Fiji to ensure the country's food security.
'Urgent' reductions needed
"Oxfam is calling for more urgent and ambitious emissions reductions to minimise the impact of the climate crisis," the not-for-profit group said in its recommendations ahead of COP25.
The office for Australian Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley said emissions reduction was an issue for Energy Minister Angus Taylor.
"Australia is taking action to cut global emissions and our Climate Solutions Package sets out to the last tonne how we will meet our 2030 target," Taylor said in a statement to the ABC.
Australia's return to its Pacific neighbours after years of neglect could risk being undermined by the Government's intransigence on the region's main threat: climate change.
He said new data released last week showed Australia's emissions were lower than when the Coalition took power in 2013. Those figures showed the lowest emissions output was in 2016.
"The Pacific is Australia's home and we share the region's responsibilities and challenges — particularly in addressing the impact of climate change," he said.
"The Government recognises the major challenges that climate change poses to the Pacific and is providing significant support to help build climate and disaster resilience in the region."
Australia was accused of hampering efforts by small island states to get Pacific-wide consensus on their declaration for stronger action on climate change at the Pacific Islands Forum this year.
The topic of sea level rise was also highlighted during last night's Q&A in Fiji, where Tuvalu's former Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga said he was "taken aback" by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who he said was "expressing views that completely denies that there is climate change already happening in the Pacific".
A spokesman for Morrison has rejected the claim. Morrison has outlined how $500 million will be redirected from existing aid programs to help build climate and disaster resilience in the Pacific.
SOURCE: ABC NEWS/PACNEWS
Pacific Islands News Association
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