The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

2015 State of the Environment Report

“For us Oceania peoples, ... climate change is a daily struggle. For many of our Oceania countries it is a question of whether we remain on or leave our sinking homes. Our livelihoods are linked to the Pacific Ocean. Sea level rise and ocean acidification and other effects of global warming threaten our way of life – and even our national identities. For us it is a matter of life and death.”

Caritas Oceania leaders.

Pope Francis called on all of us who share the earth as our common home to urgently change the way we are living – as a global community, as national political communities, as households and as individuals. In his encyclical Laudato Si’ he acknowledges climate change as a global problem, and one of the principal challenges facing humanity.

It is in this spirit and this context that we present our first State of the Environment Report for Oceania: Caring for our common home. We identify some of the symptoms of sickness and wellbeing present in the soil, water and air of our region – on land and sea, as they affect people.

State of the environment report

We do not write this as scientific or environmental experts, but rather from the perspective of working with grassroots communities throughout Oceania in our development, humanitarian, advocacy and education work.

Following our foundational work, presented in our 2014 report Small yet strong: Voices from Oceania on the environment, we have identified five key issues affecting people in the region which we will monitor in the coming years. In particular, how these issues are affecting the most vulnerable.

These issues are:

  • Impact of severe weather-related emergencies
  • Coastal erosion and rising sea levels
  • Access to food and safe drinking water
  • Mining and drilling of the ocean floor
  • Climate financing for Oceania’s developing nations – to support both minimisation of greenhouse gas emissions (mitigation) and adaptation to climate change.

In this report, we provide an overview of each issue, including facts and statistics where available. We discuss the environmental trends and progress, and through both positive and negative case studies, explore the lived experience of communities in Oceania: what is affecting them and how they are responding.

We particularly highlight throughout the report, the story of the Carteret Islands, offshore from Bougainville in Papua New Guinea. Their experience reflects many of the key issues facing small Pacific communities, and the call to each of us to participate in protecting our common home.

Our own “Caritas indicator” gives a snapshot assessment for this year of how a particular issue is impacting people’s lives – and what room there is for improvement.

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Tutu ana te puehu - Stirring up the dust