Pacific leaders take climate change talks on tour

August 18, 2015

Pacific leaders take climate change talks on tour

Reverend Tafue Lusama is calling for New Zealanders to think about the impact of climate change on their Pacific neighbours. Photo: Supplied

Church leaders from the Pacific are calling on New Zealanders to take action against the impact of climate change on our neighbouring nations.

TEAR Fund, Oxfam, 350 Aotearoa, the Diocesan Climate Change Action Group, and the Reformed Christian Church of Tuvalu, joined forces in bringing Pacific leaders to New Zealand to speak publicly about their plight.

They hope it will challenge communities to think seriously about the impact their consumer choices and lifestyles have on climate change.

Reverend Tafue Lusama, founder of the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network, lead the charge in a series of talks across Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Mr Lusama said rising sea levels, changes to crops and fishing, and unpredictable storms, are not simply a point of scientific discussion as they threaten his livelihood in Tuvalu.

The impacts of climate change, he said, are tearing apart communities on all the islands that surround his nation.

Green MP Denise Roche attended the Auckland meetings, and said it is vital to encourage people to talk more about how their actions impact climate change.

“Targeting the Pacific religious leaders based in Auckland is a really good idea, given that they have strong connections with their home community but may not be aware of what the impact of climate change can be,” said Ms Roche.

She said while Pacific nations create some of the lowest emissions, they often have to deal with the consequences of other nations’ environmental impacts through rising sea levels or adverse weather events.

Ms Roche also said it’s not surprising to see Christian and faith-based communities tackling the topic of climate change head-on, given the often strong focus on justice issues within these groups.

TEAR Fund’s education and advocacy manager, Dr Murray Sheard, said targeting the Christian groups is part of a wider push to make communities aware of the local impact of a global issue.

“We’re interested in getting climate change onto the table, so we thought one very good way of doing that was to bring over some of our Pacific neighbours, because they are some of the most affected people,” said Dr Sheard.

“There are others that try to get their church leaders to focus more on how this is a justice issue… that whole idea of how we act responsibly, not just for something that’s way away, but is actually right on our back door.”

Jay Lucas, an elder at Auckland church Edge Kingsland, said there has been a shift in the way church leaders talk about environmental issues, and climate change is no longer an issue that can go unaddressed by any community.

“There are some people that are going need to come at this from a macro level, be they economists, bankers, environmentalists, or DOC,” said Mr Lucas.

“[But] the church that is filled with just normal people needs to begin to see the morality of our consumer choices that affect the environment.”

Dr Sheard said the talks were well received, and they hope to set up local groups in each of the cities visited to ensure the issues are taken forward.

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