By Pacific Island Times News Staff
Taking a stance on the environmental crises confronting the Pacific island states, the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Pacific lamented the poor response to climate change and deep-sea mining in the region.
“The Oceania bishops feel helpless and vulnerable because international commitments toward addressing climate change are weak,” reads a pastoral letter released over the weekend, “Our Oceania home is severely threatened by climate change, rising sea levels and depleted resources and migration trends are beginning to reflect those challenges.”
The region’s church leaders noted that the Pacific islands have been experiencing some of the most frequent and violent natural disasters.
“Five of the most vulnerable atoll islands threatened by sea level rising are Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshall, Carteret, Maldives – four of these islands are in our Oceania home,” they said.
The bishops issued the letter as world leaders currently gather in Dubai for a two-week climate change summit dubbed COP28 in Dubai.
“Our Oceania island states have weak economies and hence we are very vulnerable to the exploitation of economic powers.” the bishops said, citing the new threats posed by deep-sea mining in Tonga, Cook Island, Nauru and Kiribati.
“Mining and extractive companies carry out businesses that destroy the environment and deny our peoples’ livelihood,” the bishops said.
The regional church leaders slammed short-term solutions, which they said “do not address the root cause” of climate change.
“The Oceania Catholic Bishops concur with science by reminding the world that fossil fuel is the key driver of climate change,” the bishops said. “Fossil fuels cause carbon emission which in turn contributes to global warming. Global warming melts the ice and causes sea level rise. The root cause of climate change is fossil fuels. Therefore, the Oceania Bishops strongly say ‘No’ to fossil fuel. The solution is to seek alternative sources of power.”
Quoting Pope Francis, the bishops said, “Short-term solutions will keep us trapped in the mindset of pasting and papering over cracks, while beneath the surface there is a continuing deterioration to which we continue to contribute."
They noted that the 52nd Pacific Islands Forum’s conference held Nov. 11 in the Cook Islands “clearly communicated that fossil fuel and carbon emission are the key drivers of climate change. Carbon emission causes global warming which in turn melts the ice resulting in sea level rise.”
In Tuvalu, the bishops said, climate change "is not just a future threat, but a contemporary challenge which has already been experienced."
"Tuvalu is vulnerable to sea level rise and ocean-related hazards. Adaptation particularly through land reclamation has been portrayed as a means of protecting Tuvalu from sea level and environmental extreme events such as storm surges," they said.
The bishops called on Pacific island states "join hands to fight this monster."
"We must rise together! This is the power of vulnerability, the power of the cross," they said. "The Pope points out clearly: 'The demands that rise up from below throughout the world, where activists from very different countries help and support one another, can end up pressuring the sources of power. It is to be hoped that this will happen with respect to the climate crisis.'"