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  • Nigel Akuani

Climate Change needs Action and Inclusiveness

Port Moresby: Integrity and inclusiveness are crucial to lessen the effects of climate change experienced in Papua New Guinea.

The bold expression was made by four young dynamic personnel of the Catholic Bishops Conference PNGSI, during the Chat Room of Wednesday 10th November 2021.

The group’s discussion focused on the topic ‘5-Million Reasons for Environmental Justice in Papua New Guinea’, and brought to light the controversial spending of K5.8Million to travel a 62-member delegation to attend the COP-26 (Conference of Parties-26) Climate Change Conference, in Glasgow, United Kingdom. An array of valid points was raised that included a history and definition of COP-26; the need for Environmental Justice; Active role of Youths; Integrity and Inclusiveness of Women; prominent Quotes and reflective Scriptures; with a strong call for prior Public Consultation and Transparency.

Media Officer, Jessica Oata, described how when the environment was damaged it affected the overall health and wellbeing of a person, and said it was everyone’s basic human right to seek and receive humanitarian assistance from their government. “Traditional Papua New Guinean societies are deeply connected and depend entirely on their land for nearly everything. However, when it is destroyed in the name of progress and development, all ties they once held with the land get broken. This experience places an unhealthy strain on them both mentally and physically,” she stated.

“They are now forced to resettle and fend for themselves with little to no assistance or an allocation of a Resettlement Subsidy given from District Administrations and Provincial Government,” she added.

In light of COP-26, Ms Oata, noted how the delegation did not have any Youth Representative nor Female Spokesperson and urged for their inclusiveness in such global matters. “Our country today has many qualified and experienced women involved in the work of the Environment, and many young and aspiring young leaders who are very vocal on such matters. To mitigate the effects of climate change, there first needs to be more inclusiveness,” she said.

Administration Officer of CBC PNGSI, Francis Hairai, questioned why more than K5 Million was spent to fly the 62-member delegation to Glasgow when the amount could have been better spent to address the health crisis caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic. “The money could have been used to save lives by preventing the deaths of people who were dying from curable diseases but more so to the notorious coronavirus,” he said.

Explaining the devastating impact on the environment caused by Climate Change, he stressed how the money could have been utilized in an array of more dire environmental issues. “In the name of development and wealth creation our people are being displaced and forced to live in an environment that now has poor air quality, extreme heat from the sun, water and land contamination, with the permanent destruction of biodiversity. A good example would be the Pogera Joint Venture in Enga Province, where the mine’s improper disposal of waste has already damaged the land that was once fit for cultivation,” he stated.

Journalist, Nigel Akuani, Recalling the quote by Climate Activist, Oladosu Adenike, ‘A democracy that doesn’t include the voice of the environment will fail,’ emphasized that apart from pushing for national prosperity and wealth creation, an equitable balance was also needed in caring for the environment. “Our governments, departments, organisations, all have to put at the forefront of their agendas the need to Protect and Preserve the Environment for future generations to benefit from,” he said.

He told how planet Earth was God’s creation and humanity as his stewards, and urged for people holding positions of power and authority to safeguard at all costs God’s creation. “Deuteronomy 10:14, makes it clear that everything on Earth belongs to God Almighty and this needs to be kept. We depend on the environment for everything, and it is only consciously moral that we return the favour by showing appreciation through our caring deeds,” he affirmed.

Elizabeth Aribi, Youth Secretary of CBC PNGSI, made an encouragement to young youth to start being vocal on such matters and involve themselves in pushing for long-term societal change that would benefit all. “Now is the time for you to start sharing your knowledge, culture, history, stories with others and to openly speak about these alarming issues which are of grave concern. The clock is ticking and we each have a significant part to play in this,” she implored.

The next session of Chat Room on 17th November will have youths from Hohola Catholic Parish talk more on the upcoming World Youth Day 2021.

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