October 2021

‘Stand with Tosy’ campaign aims to drive action on climate change

The Sisters of the Good Samaritan are supporting a new campaign from the Edmund Rice Centre’s Pacific Calling Partnership, which features the personal plea of I-Kiribati woman Tosy Tataua for Australian political leaders to urgently commit to climate change action before her island home is inundated by rising seawater, writes Debra Vermeer.

Tosy Tataua. Image: Sisters of the Good Samaritan.

The ‘Stand with Tosy’ campaign aims to encourage faith communities and their friends and supporters to write to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese urging action on climate change ahead of next month’s COP26 United Nations Global Climate Conference in Glasgow. After weeks of uncertainty about whether or not he would go in person, Mr Morrison has confirmed he will attend.

In a letter to support the campaign, Tosy, a former Good Samaritan novice, outlines her concern for the future of young people across the Pacific and throughout the world.

She says Kiribati is one of the world’s least developed countries and its contribution to climate change and global warming is very small. Despite this, Kiribati is extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and could become uninhabitable by 2050, creating displacement for its more than 120,000 people.

“I am very proud of my beautiful culture and my identity as an I-Kiribati woman,” she writes. “I want my people to live safely and freely without worrying about their future.

“Kiribati is a low-lying island nation that barely reaches two metres above sea level. Most of our islands have an ocean shoreline and coastal lagoon. There are no hills or streams.”

Tosy says one of the current very real effects of climate change in Kiribati is rising sea levels.

“This is already affecting us and our livelihoods in devastating ways and, according to the latest scientific projections, the current emissions path means that there will continue to be sea level rise long into the future,” she says.

She urges political leaders to act swiftly to meet greenhouse gas emission targets.

“Ahead of COP26, I urge wealthy and developed countries, such as Australia, to give us a helping hand by committing to a 75 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and developing a plan for how you will achieve that,” she writes.

“I ask for further ambitious action from the Australian Government to take urgent climate action to limit carbon emissions and keep (global) temperatures to below 1.5°C (temperature rise) as agreed under the Paris Agreement.”

Corinne Fagueret, Coordinator of the Pacific Calling Partnership (PCP), said Tosy’s personal plea was part of PCP’s endeavour to raise up the voices of people in the Pacific who are being personally affected by the effects of climate change to urge political leaders to act.

“The people who live in the Pacific are already impacted by climate change and are incredibly vulnerable,” she said. “For them, it is literally a matter of survival.

“This COP26 meeting is the last chance for the world to stay below 1.5°C degrees in average global warming. If average global warming reaches 2°C degrees, it will spell disaster for the Pacific and hundreds of thousands of Pacific Islanders will need to relocate from their homelands. Where will they go?

“The next two to three years are absolutely crucial. If we can’t reduce the emissions drastically, we won’t meet the targets set at the Paris Agreement.”

Corinne says the ‘Stand with Tosy’ campaign urges religious congregations and other communities of faith to embark on a letter-writing campaign to urge Australia’s political leaders to act. The campaign will run in the lead-up to the start of COP26 on October 31.

Good Samaritan Sister Catherine McCahill said the Sisters had long supported the Pacific Calling Partnership and the associated Intercongregational Voice on Climate Change because caring for creation was fundamental to the Good Samaritan charism of ‘Being Neighbour’.

“The Pacific is such an important part of the ecology of the earth. If we don’t help lift up the voices of those who live in the Pacific, the whole planet will be impacted,” she said.

“In Australia, we’ve got a voice because we’re strategically important, so we’ve got to stand beside these small nations who don’t have a voice. They are our neighbours and we have to help them amplify their voices and call for political action.

“We are delighted to ‘Stand with Tosy’ and have forwarded the letter-writing campaign information to all our Sisters, Oblates and staff.”

Good Samaritan Sister Katarina Kabiriera, who also hails from Kiribati, added her personal plea to Tosy’s campaign.

“I need the leaders to understand climate change and how it affects us all,” she said. “I need them to understand the situation for this unending crisis to find the way to stop it.

“Our people in Kiribati one day will lose everything they treasure and their daily life. When the islands are all gone from the rising sea level, the people will also be gone. The question is, are some countries willing to offer their lands for us in the future?”

Good Samaritan Sister Taabeia Ibouri, also from Kiribati, urged leaders to take the same strong action on climate change that they brought to bear on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We, the Pacific people living on the frontline and experiencing the impact of climate change, know how it feels to be living there,” she said. “It is a huge problem affecting our daily lives.

“I ask leaders to take climate change seriously as they did the pandemic and undertake increasingly ambitious climate action.”

To add your support to the letter-writing campaign, click here.


Debra Vermeer

Debra Vermeer is a freelance journalist working in both Catholic and mainstream media.

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