Indonesia offers Pacific climate refugees island rental

Radio Australia 3 Jun 09;

Indonesia's Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry is considering renting some of its islands to climate change refugees. The Indonesian Maritime Minister's proposal comes as a recently released report reinforces the need to accommodate the expected increase of people displaced by climate change.

Many from Pacific Island nations, among the hardest hit by rising sea-levels, are already fleeing. And Pacific Islanders relocating to Indonesia could become a reality, however impractical the idea seems.

Presenter: Steve Holland
Speaker: Dr Syamsul Maarif, Secretary General of Indonesia's Maritime Affairs Ministry; Damien Lawson, National Climate Justice Co-ordinator for Friends of the Earth Australia; Fred Fakari, Solomon Islands Permanent Secretary of Home Affairs; Dr John Church, CSIRO - Australia's premier scientific research organisation

HOLLAND: Climate change is blamed for the deaths 300,000 people each year, 300 million people have been seriously effected by it and, economically, it costs the world $US125 billion per year -- that's according to a report released this week by the Global Humanitarian Forum. The organisation, set up by former UN secretary General Kofi Anan, claims it's the first ever report exclusively focused on the global human impact of climate change. For small island nations, like those in the Pacific, it adds to a barrage of dire climate warnings. Dr John Church, from Australia's premier scientific research organisation, the CSIRO, is regarded as one of the world-leaders in studying the effects of global warming on the oceans.

CHURCH: And the most recent records from satellite altimeters more than twice sea levels are going to continue to rise and also from increasing the mass of ocean from glaciers.

HOLLAND: The impact of rising sea levels is already well known to many Pacific Islanders. The Global Humanitarian Forum's report says more than half the region's population lives within 1.5 kilometres of the shore and people are already leaving Tuvalu for Zealand.

Damien Lawson, National Climate Justice Co-ordinator for Friends of the Earth Australia, says the human cost will rise with the seas.

LAWSON: And that's why people like this in the Caterarts are leaving and that's only the beginning of climate change this century.

HOLLAND: The Solomon Islands has felt the devastation of rising sea levels and storm surges. The tsunami that struck the region in 2007 has left a lasting reminder. And Solomon Islands Permanent Secretary of Home Affairs, Mr Fred Fakari, says his country's government is keenly aware of the issue.

FAKARI: The problem also effects those living on the main islands but to get new land to accommodate these people, the government has to acquire new land.

HOLLAND: And Indonesia may have the solution. The country's Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry has suggested renting some of its uninhabited islands to those whose islands are being inundated by the ocean.

But Fred Fakari says the Solomon Islands is looking to tackle the problem internally.

FAKARI: Maybe other place like Nauru, the Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Tuvalu may consider, but for the Solomon Islands it's an issue that we would like to accommodate within the country.

Damien Lawson, from Friends of the Earth, says Indonesia's idea is worth considering.

LAWSON: People in the Maldives don't want to leave their countries, so it may seem, but it's a reflection of how serious is that these country's are now looking at taking these steps.

HOLLAND: The Secratary General of Indonesia's Maritime Affairs Ministry, Dr Syamsul Maarif, says the idea must first pass through his country's government.

MAARIF: And we have to discuss with also other ministry, because we have also ministry of foreign affairs, something like that, ministry of defence, to discuss about that. This is the idea of our minister.

HOLLAND: Director-General, how close is this idea to becoming a reality?

MAARIF: Yeah, I think our minister will discuss with our president, then I think if sea level rise happen, then there is some small country island disappear then I think we have the responsibility to them.

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