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Tongan Caritas leader says ‘effects of climate change are being felt on a daily basis’

Speaking out: Amelia Ma’afu. Photo: Crispin Anderlini, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand

AFTER world leaders gathered in Poland for the United Nations’ annual climate conference, a Catholic advocate in the Pacific has warned of the environmental damage being suffered on her island home.

“The effects of climate change are being felt on a daily basis,” Caritas Tonga director Amelia Ma’afu said.

Tonga and other countries across the Pacific are among those most affected, even though they have contributed the least to historical emissions.

“Sea-level rise means waves continue to batter our coastline forcing people to relocate, and to keep the seas out of their living rooms,” Ms Ma’afu said.

“We are running out of water – our freshwater lenses are being increasingly infiltrated by sea water.

“And we see it in the rapid shift of weather patterns, we see it in our fruits flowering at all different times of the year inconsistent with past seasons.”

Ms Ma’afu said it was crucial governments should dedicate resources to assist developing nations that were being impacted by climate change.

“It is a question of us losing our home, our values and our lands,” she said.

“… So we really need the assistance of bigger, more industrialised countries.” 

World leaders gathered in the Polish city of Katowice for the annual UN Climate Change Conference were expected to finalise the framework of the 2015 Paris climate accord. 

Delegates from the Caritas Internationalis network attended the talks in Poland to urge country delegates to deliver a concrete plan to tackle the devastating impacts of climate change on human life, ecosystems, and food and water security. 

Climate action: A coastal scene in Kiribati. Rising sea levels are threatening to sink Kiribati’s land area and ultimately displace its people. Photos: Caritas

Caritas warned of the urgent need to curb climate change for the coming decade and stated the cost of increased disasters and hazards was now unbearable for communities already facing poverty.

Recently Caritas Australia released its fifth state-of-the-environment report for Oceania titled Waters of Life, Oceans for Mercy that tracks five key environmental issues affecting the lives of Oceania’s peoples. 

These issues include coastal erosion-sea level rise, food and water, extreme weather events, offshore mining and drilling, and climate finance. 

The report also puts a human face on the consequences of climate change by sharing the stories of people across the region whose lives have been impacted by rising global temperatures. 

Caritas Australia is encouraging all Australians to speak up in solidarity with Pacific neighbours. 

The Catholic organisation recommends sending a message to your local Member of Parliament by uploading a video on the Caritas Australia website. 

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