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PACIFIC BEAT - RADIO AUSTRALIA Updated
The President of Kiribati says an increasing number of the country's citizens are asking to be relocated because of rising sea waters.
Anote Tong, says Kiribati is in urgent need of funding to manage rising sea levels - and to move whole village communities.
Mr Tong has also raised concerns that some of the nation's young people are missing out on vital information about environmental changes in their country.
Presenter: Stephanie March
Speakers: Anote Tong, President of Kiribati; Teako Otia, Kiribati high school student
MARCH: Authorities in the low-lying Pacific atolls of Kiribati have been concerned about rising sea levels for some time. Recently returned from a trip to the country's outer islands, President Anote Tong says the situation is rapidly getting worse.
TONG: Previously they used to ask us to build sea walls so they can stay on in the village. But this time around they said no, we are not asking you to build sea walls, we realise we have to relocate, can you as a government assist us with relocating. So people are having to realise that they cannot continue to face and fight.
MARCH: President Tong attend a climate conference in Vanuatu last week, where the European Union unveiled more than US$120 million in funding for climate projects. He says none of it though, was earmarked to help those people on Kiribati's outer islands
TONG: I am disappointed but I am not discouraged. I try not to be discouraged, we keep going.
MARCH: He warns that if more funding is not forthcoming in the near future, the government will have a much bigger problem on it's hands.
TONG: Here we are screaming out for money, we need money to come very shortly. If it doesn't happen within this year I can guarantee more communities will be asking government to assist in relocation not protection
MARCH: Trying to convince donors to fund climate projects im Kiribati is one challenge. Another is trying to convince his own people that the future of the island nation is in jeopardy.
TONG: The older generation they are not too interested in climate change because it really won't effect them in coming years.
MARCH: Kiritbati's future hinges largely on the nation's young people. Spread across 33 separate islands, educating them about environmental change is a huge challenge. President Tong says in many remote parts of the country, young people have limited access to information about climate change, causing them confusion and anxiety. 17-year old Teako Otia is a high school student in the capital Tarawa.
TEAKO: Most students don't know, but a few are aware of the climate change and it's effects
MARCH: Teako is one of a small number of students in Kiribati involved in climate activism. She's part of a group of students that travel around to different communities doing dramas and holding discussions on the issue of climate change.
TEAKO: My objective for myself is I want all Kiribati to be aware. Like not a few people. Like most people are very sceptic, like they do know but they don't want to take action. What I want is to unite people to help and fight off the challenges. Like, we have a little contribution, but if we unite and show our strong feeling for the changes that we face maybe other countries will be easily convinced and help us out.
MARCH: Despite Teako's enthusiasm, sea waters are rising faster than the nation can cope. One part of the government's strategy is to look at ways to relocate i-Kiribati, both within and outside the country. President Tong says the concept of 'climate refugees' is too controversial for the international community to realistically consider. He says the government is trying to facilitate ways for its people to migrate on the basis of the skills they can offer a new country, rather than the urgency of their need to relocate
TONG: We have schemes both with Australia and New Zealand, and of course they would never say that it's a response to climate change, because that would bring in a flood of similar applications or requests for similar schemes, we understand that. So it's been positive, I don't think we can expect much more at this point time. We continue to ask if anybody would simply take our people in, but that has not been possible up until now.
MARCH: While migration is a hard concept to sell to neighbouring countries, it's also not something that appeals some young i-Kiribati, like Teako Otia.
OTIA: I don't like the idea of being moved from one country to another. For me Kiribati is where I belong. Being a stranger in another place is very difficult. If there is no solution I would be very sad to leave my country.
MARCH: But if President Tong is right and rising sea waters continue to destroy the nation's livelihood Teako may have little choice