Over the coming years, the Pacific island countries face the likelihood of increasing numbers of people compelled to leave their homes and livelihoods as a consequence of environmental changes produced by global warming.
Professor Vijay Naidu, director of Development Studies and the head of the School of Governance and Development Studies at the University of the South Pacific (USP), said, "there is no question about continuing increase in global temperatures. Climate change is upon us."
Extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, cyclones and accompanying waves and tidal surges are already impacting communities globally. For Pacific island countries these natural hazards and rising sea level pose serious challenges that cannot be wished away, said Naidu in Suva, the capital of Fiji.
On May 14-15, The UNESCO/Asia Pacific Migration Research Network(APMRN) and the School of Governance and Development Studies at the University of the South Pacific, jointly hosted a two-day workshop on "Climate Change Related Migration in the Pacific" in Suva.
The workshop brought together over 30 leading Pacific experts in the fields of climate change and migration, representatives from key Pacific regional institutions and postgraduate students from the University of the South Pacific, University of Auckland, University of Waikato, University of Papua New Guniea, UNESCO/ APMRN, The Pacific Island Forum Secretariat and the UNDP Pacific Center.
The Pacific island countries will need to increase their attention to climate change adaptation, because while atoll states are most vulnerable to the loss of fresh water lenses and inundation, those living in river deltas and high altitude regions of larger islands are also exposed to flooding and frost.
The workshop therefore provided an overview of environmentally forced migration in the Pacific region, including climate change and gender relations.
Participants examined the widespread socio-political, cultural and economic impacts of climate change for Pacific Island countries,with specific focus on tourism, agriculture, food security, fisheries, marine resources, and on fragile coastal zones.
This included case studies relating to sea level rise and relocation of Carteret Islanders in Papua New Guinea, and climate change and floods in urban Fiji.
Workshop participants are collaboratively developing a regional agenda for policy and research.
During the workshop, a selection of short films from Kiribati, Cook Islands, Fiji and Federated States of Micronesia were also shown.
(Xinhua News Agency May 20, 2009)