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Crisis Stricken Vanuatu Hit By Climate-fuelled Tropical Cyclone Harold

SYDNEY, April 6, 2020 - As the world scrambles to contain the Covid-19 pandemic, Tropical Cyclone Harold has struck Vanuatu, with the devastation providing an unwelcome reminder that climate change remains the biggest threat facing the Pacific.

Earlier today the cyclone made landfall on the island of Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu’s largest island, bringing torrential rain and 240km/h winds.

Climate Change & Resilience Policy, Adaptation, Loss & Damage, Sustainable Finance

& UN Negotiator Dr Christopher Bartlett from Vanuatu, described the cyclone as an outcome “of the unconscionable crime of climate change perpetrated against the people of Vanuatu by fossil fuel corporations and the countries that subsidise them.”

“The horrific loss and damage that has occurred today undermines basic human rights of life, food, water and personal security of innocent Pacific peoples,” he said.

Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Head of Pacific, Joseph Moeono-Kolio, said fossil fuel companies and developed nations are responsible for the climate crisis with coal remaining as the primary driver of global carbon emissions.

“As the Pacific battles to contain the spread of Covid-19, Tropical Cyclone Harold is a reminder that climate change represents yet another existential threat to nations like Vanuatu, that is not of their making,” he said.

“It is unfair that countries on the frontlines of the crisis, like those in the Pacific, are constantly having to bear the brunt of the economic impacts of extreme weather events, that are made worse by carbon pollution in places like Australia.”

“The big polluting countries and corporations have a responsibility to help those who have contributed the least but are among the most impacted by extreme weather events. The worst climate offenders must cut emissions as well as strengthen the Loss and Damage component of the Paris Agreement, to ensure that frontline nations receive due compensation for the damage caused by Climate Change.”

Notes

Vanuatu and other Pacific Island governments have been exploring how a request for an International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion on climate change might be pursued. An advisory opinion, while not legally binding, can be a powerful and positive mechanism for change.

The Pacific push for an advisory opinion on climate change is gathering momentum. At the meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu in August 2019, Pacific leaders were presented with the advisory opinion idea, and while the Forum did not expressly support the proposal, the Forum Communiqué did “note” the proposal in very positive terms. Vanuatu continues to explore a range of national and international legal actions.

In 2015, Vanuatu was devastated by Tropical Cyclone Pam, which led to 24 deaths and wiped VT 48.5 billion (S$746 million) from the economy, which is equivalent to 64.1% of Vanuatu’s annual GDP.

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