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A Kiap’s Chronicle: 7 – Urun

Pacific leaders need to act on fossil fuels immediately


EMISSIONS from burning fossil fuels have increased over the years and now account for two-thirds of all carbon emitted since the beginning of the industrial era, that’s 63% of all carbon dioxide produced.

Researchers have confirmed that when it comes to identifying who’s responsible, it’s not so difficult to pinpoint the biggest emitters worldwide.

In a recent detailed and exhaustive research by Rick Heede, who spent eight years combing through data, the major emitters can be limited to 90 entities. These ‘carbon majors’ have been burning fossil fuel for the last 150 years and continue to do so with greatly deleterious impacts on humanity.

The combined profits of four of the carbon majors - Chevron, ExxonMobil, BP and Shell – are nearly $100 billion. Of the 90 ‘carbon majors’, 50 are investor owned (including ExxonMobil), 31 are state-owned and nine are government-run enterprises.

Climate change is a borderless issue and its induced destruction is no longer an abstract concept but a reality for many people. In the Pacific, rising sea levels, contamination of water lenses, displacement, agricultural impacts and stronger cyclones are all too common and threaten people’s very existence.

The impact of global climate change is staggering. It is no surprise that those most vulnerable at the receiving end are the least responsible for its causes. These most at risk countries are also least equipped financially to cope.

The Pacific island countries need to band together and demand justice. Already struggling economies are even more burdened with the increasing intensity and frequency of natural disasters.

These countries, operating in concert, must make sure that the fossil fuel giants bear their share of the problem by making use of international instruments such as the International Mechanism for Loss and Damage.

They must demand that the carbon majors pay levies, royalties and extraction-related fees for past emissions and for the destruction of the heritage of Pacific island countries.

Governments of the Pacific must now act on behalf of their people without fear of retribution from giant corporations. For Papua New Guinea this becomes more important since the exploration of its resources and exploitation of government system has not translated well into economic development.

Schools are ill-equipped, tertiary institutions continue to suffer budget cuts, the number of homeless youths and disadvantaged families continue to rise….

It is sad to see PNG politicians giving too much leeway to mega-companies and corporations to extort natural resources and fiscal benefits from indigenous people without proper and fair payment.

The PNG government must promote the development of the nation and not the development of personal bank accounts. It’s time to say enough, it’s over. The prime minister should take the lead in getting the country back on its feet.

Exploitation at appalling levels has been exposed by the Panama papers – detailing the tax havens and fraudulent systems driving the exploitative profits of large corporations and individuals.

The fossil fuel industry has much to answer for in terms of incalculable environmental degradation and its catastrophic consequences. PNG’s 2012 landslide at an ExxonMobil project should be a warning. Over the years, many similar tragedies have occurred and the sheer scale of such disasters can be difficult to grasp.

The pollution impacts on innocent people are also staggering with estimates from the World Health Organization that up to seven million people die prematurely each year due to fossil fuel burning and inhalation of polluted air.

Moves by Pacific island countries to bring to justice such climate renegades must be priority.

Millions of people are suffering in silence. Human rights are being violated for the benefit of the world’s wealthiest nations, industries and corporations.

Pacific islands’ leaders must act now because not taking action is tantamount to a dereliction of duty.

Rokotamana Vitinaqailevu MPhil is an Erasmus Mundus scholarship recipient and a member of the BULA Project based at the Papua New Guinea University of Technology


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