CANCUN, Mexico, May 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The
Pacific island nation of Kiribati is in dire need of aid as
drought pushes it closer to declaring a state of emergency and
it struggles with rising seas and other effects of climate
change which could cost "billions", said President Taneti Mamau.
The urgency of the problems facing low-lying Kiribati means
it cannot wait for finance from international sources like the
Green Climate Fund, which would take two years to arrive, he
The country is spending from its reserve funds as it
searches for low-interest loans, he added.
“A day waiting is a day too many,” he told journalists on
Thursday at a U.N. conference on disasters in the Mexican resort
Mamau said his island nation had established a basis for
taking disaster risk into account in its economic planning.
"But the underlying issue is the money - our public
resources are not sufficient to address these climatic issues,”
he said, appealing to other leaders at the meeting for help.
Comprised of 33 coral islands, Kiribati's total land mass is
only about 800 square km (309 square miles), and on average is
just 2 metres (6.5 ft) above sea level. It has seen the ocean
swallow chunks of its coastline, raising the prospect it may be
the first nation to become a casualty of global warming.
To pay for measures to deal with climate change, Mamau said
his country could not rely on donors alone, and would increase
its own contributions.
Kiribati's first application to the Green Climate Fund, set
up under U.N. climate talks to channel billions of dollars to
help poor countries tackle climate change, was turned down for
technical reasons but it plans to submit another funding bid
this year, and is expecting "hundreds of millions", said Mamau.
The total cost of coping with climate change could be
“billions”, he added.
After several years of drought, the government is looking at
desalination plants to provide water for some islands where the
water has become undrinkable.
Lack of data is a major barrier to managing disasters in the
country, which has limited early warning systems, said the
president. It relies on radio to communicate but will soon
introduce a mobile phone network.
Kiribati earns most of its revenue from licensing fishing
vessels mainly from Europe, South Korea, the United States,
Japan and China, selling access days to fish in its waters.
Its exclusive economic zone is one of the largest in the
Pacific, spanning 3.6 million square kilometres (1.4 million
square miles), an area about the size of India.
The Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction, which ends
on Friday, is the first major conference since the 15-year
Sendai Framework was hammered out in Japan in 2015, setting
targets for governments to cut deaths and economic losses from
disasters by 2030.
The seven Sendai targets also include limiting damage to
infrastructure and disruption to basic services such as health
and education, and widening access to early warning systems and
public disaster risk information.
(Reporting by Sophie Hares, editing by Megan Rowling. Please
credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of
Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights,
trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.