by NZ CATHOLIC staff

After more than 40 climate change protest events held throughout the country in late September, Caritas released its annual State of the Environment for Oceania report on October 3, the eve of the feast day of St Francis of Assisi. This marked the end of the month-long Season of Creation, celebrated by tens of thousands of Christians around the world.

“Over the last five weeks, Catholics have joined many others in praying, walking and acting for extreme climate action in the face of the ongoing climate emergency,” said Caritas director Julianne Hickey. “Now is the time for world leaders and other key decision makers to take action to dramatically cut carbon emissions to reach net zero emissions by 2050.”

While the term “climate emergency” has become mainstream this year, many in the Pacific have been living a climate emergency for decades, a Caritas press release stated.

They have been calling for action ever since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was agreed in 1992.

Ms Hickey launched the 2019 report “Seeds of Hope”at events in Auckland on October 3 and in Wellington on October 4.

Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand has published the Caritas State of the Environment for Oceania Report since 2014, on behalf of Caritas Oceania and the peoples of Oceania. It tracks how five key issues are impacting people in the region: coastal erosion/sea level rise; food and water; extreme weather; offshore mining and drilling; and climate finance. Contributions have come from Caritas agencies in Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Australia, and Caritas partners and associates from many other Pacific countries. Stories of impact are also available online at https://caritas.
org.nz/state-environment
.

The 2019 report concluded that “climate change and biodiversity loss is having a huge impact in Oceania”.

“Many people have died and many suffer because the rich and powerful have not heard and responded quickly enough to the cry of the earth and the poor, nor heeded the warnings of scientists. “Now that more of the global community are waking up to reality, we risk prioritising infrastructure over people, and adaptation for the rich rather than the poor.”

A warning was also issued that the “rush for renewables may put additional pressure on the ‘new frontier’ of seabed mining for necessary minerals”.

“Our oceans face enough threats,” the report stated. “We need integrated, holistic solutions to protect air, land, oceans and people. We’re in dire straits. We need all the wisdom of our ancestors and all the agility of our youth to steer our waka, our canoe, in a new direction.”

Among the report’s recommendations was that Australia and New Zealand honour their international climate change commitments and meet “their fair share of the global climate finance goal of $US100 billion (from public and private sources) per annum by 2020, committed to by developed nations in 2010”.

“It should be additional to existing aid commitments.”

The report also recommended more local action and connection on environmental issues, as well as advocacy groups working with institutions, including churches, to influence changes in policy and practice.

Sharing the final week in the Season of Creation, Caritas recognised the Global Week of Action on migration.

Caritas stated that this is a timely reminder that environmental degradation is one of a variety of reasons forcing many to leave their home.

Caritas’ “Share the Journey” campaign encourages a culture of encounter between migrants and refugees and established communities.

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