A sad story being repeated across the Solomon Islands and other small Pacific Island states

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A letter reached me the other day from a Solomon Islands lady living at Tikopia who, in her own words, said, It saddens me greatly that our beautiful tiny Islands in Ontong Java are actually being washed away centimeter by centimeter and you can tell they will disappear eventually.  The highest Island in Ontong Java is 3 meters above sea level and that too is getting smaller as the sea eats into the tiny Island.”
How often are such sad and concerning words being spoken across the Solomon Islands and in the other smaller Pacific nation states?
It was in 2014, that similar alarming voices were being raised by people living on the artificial islands in the Lau lagoons and in the three years since I have lost track of the cries of communities in the Reef Islands, in Malaita, in the Western Province in Choiseul and especially in Taro, all suffering from encroaching sea water, loss of land, pollution of water supplies, damaged food crops, collapsing homes and of deep personal concerns where to move to re-build their homes on what higher ground exists.
The rise in sea levels is reported to be caused by the effects of climate change and I can think of no better way of giving some facts and figures on the sea level changes than by quoting extracts from the excellent article that first appeared in the local media in late August this year written by Ashtyn Douglas and entitled ‘The Drowing Isles.’
The International Panel for Climate Change reports that sea-level rise is likely to increase by 3.22 feet by the end of this century.

Greenland and Antarctica are melting quicker than ever before.

Recent studies point to a segment in Antarctica called the Amundsen Sea sector that has gone into “irreversible decline.”

The body of ice there holds enough water to raise sea levels by another 4 feet, and its eventual melting could destabilize other parts of the adjoining ice sheets.

The effects of this would spell disaster not only for the oceanfront settlements in the Solomon Islands, but for coastal areas worldwide.

Experts believe curbing climate change will require unified action from the international community, which has proven difficult due to the politicization of the issue.
“Over the last 20 years, the rates of sea-level rise in the Solomon Islands have been three times higher than the global average,” said Albert.

“That’s about an 8 or 9
millimetre rise each year.”

Half of that number, he explained, is the result of El Niño cycles, which naturally siphon the world’s water into the South Pacific. The other culprit is climate change.

In some parts of the country, this rapid sea-level rise, combined with high wave intensity, has eroded beaches and destroyed people’s properties.

Even over the short span of five years, many have watched the ocean come into their villages and carry homes away.

Turning his attention to how funding might be used to help the Solomon Islands and other regional small Pacific nations, Ashtyn Douglas, wrote

The Green Climate Fund, a financial reservoir created by the United Nations, was designed to mobilize $100 billion a year to help developing countries like the Solomon Islands cut emissions and adapt to the risks of climate change.

But in order for people in smaller villages to benefit from this fund, they need their central government in the capital of Honiara to apply for this money on their behalf.

According to some, there’s a substantial disconnect between villagers on smaller islands and those who decide how to best disburse the money from the Green Climate Fund.

In the early 2000s, Honiara was embroiled in ethnic violence and political upheaval, which left the capital in a state of chaos and economic disarray.

Many believe that in the years since, Honiara has been so focused on reassembling itself that it’s overlooked the needs of people in more-remote villages who are dealing with acute sea-level rise.

For example, just a month ago the Solomon Islands acquired an $86 million subsidy from the Green Climate Fund for a hydro-development project that will provide cheap electricity for the capital’s denizens.

Meanwhile, people in places like Taro, who are watching their coastlines vanish, are having a difficult time procuring the necessary capital to relocate.”

In 2015, 197 countries signed the Paris Climate Agreement, promising to limit emissions in an effort to keep global warming at or below 2 degrees Celsius.
Today, two years on, there are many critics who say the Paris Cop 21 Climate Agreement was full of empty promises and that governments aren’t taking aggressive enough measures to stop the burning of fossil fuels
The Prime Minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama has been elected as the President of COP 23 and will be fighting for the rights of Pacific Islanders for action on climate change when the Conference opens in November in Germany.
This is what Prime Minister Bainimarama had to say when addressing the United Nations General Assembly last week in New York.
“The Paris Agreement calls for global warming to be kept well under two degrees over that of the industrial age and as close as possible to 1.5 degrees. A year ago, I stood here before being appointed President of COP23 and called for 1.5 degrees to be our target. I meant it then and I mean it now. There is an urgent need to fix this number as our objective and as soon as possible.
“I certainly carry with me the authority of the Pacific to pursue this objective.
“As well as ensuring decisive action to limit global warming, we must also do a lot more to make nations and communities more resilient to the effects of climate change. We know we are all going to have to adapt. But we must make special provision for those who are most vulnerable and have the least resources to cope with the catastrophic consequences we are witnessing all around us.
“We are pleased to be part of a serious engagement with governments and the private sector to secure innovative and more affordable access to insurance to enable those affected by disaster to recover more quickly. It is a question of fairness and economic development. Because without insurance, restoration and rebuilding is simply too great a burden for many nations and communities.
“We are also encouraged by the rapid development of clean, affordable alternative energy solutions for countries across the world. This offers great promise that we can achieve this 1.5 degree target and prosper.
“I am in no doubt that the role that I have embraced as COP23 President is the most important any Fijian leader has undertaken. I appeal to my fellow Pacific leaders to support me as we tackle the greatest challenge to our own region and the greatest challenge to the world. I want to acknowledge the work of the Alliance of Small Island States these past 30 years, which has consistently looked after the interests of our people. And has reminded the world that our interests are the interests of every global citizen.”
Indeed the interests and the rights of the small Pacific Island nations and especially the rights of all in the Solomon Island, so evidently suffering from the affects of climate change, are the interests of every global citizen.
I really hope the world is listening this time around.
Yours sincerely
Frank Short