Legal and Policy Challenges for the World Economy
New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Edited by Benjamin J. Richardson, Yves Le Bouthillier, Heather McLeod-Kilmurray and Stepan Wood
Chapter 5: Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples in the South Pacific: The Need for Regional and Local Strategies
Eric Kwa* INTRODUCTION 1. This chapter examines what challenges climate change poses to the indigenous peoples of the South Pacific, and the policies and laws being adopted in the region to address this threat. It is important to consider these environmental challenges at a regional and local level because the forecast apocalyptic impacts of climate change will materialise in diverse and often locally-specific ways across the globe. The South Pacific, consisting of 16 island states including Australia and New Zealand,1 is in some ways the planet’s canary in the coal mine on this issue, as it is likely to bear the brunt of some of the first impacts, including inundation of low-lying islands by rising sea levels. Apart from Australia, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and New Zealand, the majority of the Pacific island countries and territories (PICT) are atolls and low-lying islands. The developing countries with bigger land mass and higher terrain with extensive forest cover are located within the sub-region of Melanesia, comprised of PNG, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia. In 2008, the South Pacific (excluding Australia and New Zealand) had some 9.5 million people, with PNG alone having a population of approximately 6.1 million. The overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of the South Pacific are indigenous to the region. Many live on customarily-owned land, using customary rules and practices to govern their affairs. They depend heavily on their land, its natural resources and the health of the environment for their daily sustenance. Their way...
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