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A-G Raises Legal Issues About Climate Change

A-G Raises Legal Issues About Climate Change
From left: Minister for Health and Medical Services Rosy Akbar, Mary Bainimarama and Office of the Prime Minister Deputy Secretary (Policy) Peniana Lalabalavu in Bonn, Germany. Photo: Office of the Attorney-General
November 12
12:18 2017

There are many aspects of climate change where legal expertise is needed that have been overlooked in the Pacific.

Attorney-General and Minister responsible for Climate Change Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum while delivering his keynote address at the University of Bonn’s seminar on Climate Law and Governance hit home some hard truths on areas where Pacific needs help.

And, his remarks were so well received that Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN), an umbrella organisation on data sharing has offered to work with the Fijian Government, although it does not generally partner with governments.

The organisation’s executive director Andre Laperriere reached out to Mr Sayed-Khaiyum after his keynote address and offered the organisation’s support.

“Small Island Developing States are at the forefront of climate change. In the Pacific, natural disasters and slow-onset events are already impacting the ability of our people to fully realise and enjoy their human rights. Some Fijian communities have relocated or are in the process of relocating due to this.  Forced relocations can have a dissociating effect on communities.

“Natural disasters will become more frequent and more intense in the future. The projected increase of climate-displaced people in the Pacific, and other regions will further increase our vulnerability. Displacement is not only a regional responsibility but also a global one. This is a responsibility Fiji will not shy away from,” he told the room full of lawyers and budding lawyers of the university.

Some of the issues Mr Sayed-Khaiyum highlighted included where to mark the boundaries of the Economic Exclusive Zone with disappearing islands.

“We have challenges with rising sea levels which will re-shape national boundaries. For Pacific islands and archipelagos this is particularly problematic as it has the potential to re-shape our exclusive economic zones.

“In the longer term as islands disappear and States themselves become submerged, like Tuvalu, this raises a suite of international law issues about the future legal status of such countries, State succession and legal status of their citizens.

“Fiji has offered to give a permanent home to the populations of two of our closest neighbours who are losing territory due to sea-level rise – Kiribati and Tuvalu.

“We will naturally work with the region and stakeholders to preserve human dignity in the mass movement of people when the time comes,” he said.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa


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