As the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) continues in Paris, more than 190 countries have sent delegates to tackle the important and urgent issues of climate change. The Pacific Islands, who are extremely affected by rising sea levels due to global warming, are strongly represented at the conference.
And their voices are being heard.
In fact, the government of New Caledonia organized a side event in downtown Paris on mobilizing knowledge for better governance of climate change impacts, which featured high level speakers from the region including Papua New Guinea’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Rimbink Pato, Australia’s Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Steven Ciobo, France’s deputy special representative for COP21, Philippe Lacoste and New Caledonia’s president, Philippe Germain.
Minister Pato representing Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands Forum admits the gap between traditional knowledge and governance in the Pacific must be remedied. He gives an example from Vanuatu when Hurricane Pam struck last March, and showed showed that traditional resilience strategies helped many survive the storm and its aftermath. He states, “Traditional community cyclone shelters, ‘nimaleten‘ has a roof that slopes down to the ground making it difficult for the wind to gain hold.”
Storm brewing over Point Cruz, Solomon Islands
In Papua New Guinea, traditional knowledge of weather patterns and climate signs have helped many people prepare for times of drought and hardship. Minister Pato believes the challenge for the Pacific is how the region can integrate this innate knowledge into national and regional policy work. “We are not discarding our past but advancing forward a modern Pacific that can continue traditional techniques with modern approaches, said Minister Pato.
New Caledonia’s Member of the French National Assembly, Philippe Gomes made a political intervention – outlining France’s plan to support New Caledonia and other Pacific Island Small Island Developing States (PSIDS). He said France was ready to support the Pacific ‘amplify’ its position here at COP21 in Paris. “We must help find a consensus here in Paris and support the voices of countries greatly impacted by climate change. France can push Pacific voices,” said Gomes.
I’m sure this isn’t the last we will hear on this topic. Stay tuned!