Tuvalese leaders discuss climate change

Imagine if a much wealthier neighbour put their hose over your fence and turned the water on and your property slowly became flooded, until you had no choice but to leave.

That's how the people of Tuvalu feel.

It's predicted the Island nation, the smallest archipelago in the Pacific, could be underwater in the next 30 to 50 years due to rising sea levels.

Tuvalese leaders spoke of their plight at a breakfast event in Mangere last week as part of a Climate Change Tour hosted by NZ NGOs including Tear Fund and Oxfam. The tour aims to create awareness around the effect climate change is having on our pacific neighbours, and continues in Christchurch and Wellington this week.

"Who should we blame, and should we blame at all?" asked Tuvalu's Governor General, Iakoba Italeli. "We knew climate change was real before the scientific community confirmed it. I believe these are man-made disasters created by those that don't want to compromise their own standard of living."

Reverend Tafue Lusama told the crowd seasonal planting, harvesting and fishing was becoming increasingly disrupted, with fish becoming increasingly sparse.

"There used to be colourful corals that fish would feed on but now they're bleached white due to increased acidification and warmer seas. Because people can't catch fish it pushes them into a market-based lifestyle where they buy expensive fish and this pushes them into poverty."

Tear Fund CEO Ian McInnes told the crowd much stronger action needs to be taken on climate change.

"Increasingly, the disasters we respond to are extreme weather events, and NGOs are becoming more and more stretched.

The largest humanitarian aid organisations in the world are preparing for more disasters per year than ever before."

Dr Murray Sheard, TEAR Fund Education and Advocacy Manager, says climate change threatens to inhibit or even undo progress made in aid and development in the Pacific.

"It's an injustice because the people most at risk contribute least to the problem. We need to discover new ways of living that honour the world rather than depleting and polluting it."