9 May 2016

'Zero' international support for displaced Soloman Islanders

10:47 am on 9 May 2016

New Zealand needs to do more to help Solomon Islanders forced from their homes by rising seas caused by climate change, a researcher says.

Aerial view of the Solomon Islands, Melanesia, South Pacific, Pacific.

The Solomon Islands. Photo: AFP

Five reef islands in Solomon Islands have recently vanished and a further six islands have been severely eroded due to sea-level rise - forcing residents to flee, a new climate change report shows.

Simon Albert from the University of Queensland has published the first scientific evidence, in the journal Environmental Research Letters, that confirms the impact of climate change on Pacific countries.

Solomon Islands Referral Hospital, coastal erosion.

Coastal erosion threatens the Solomon Islands Referral Hospital Photo: Supplied

The report showed that since 1993 the seas around the Solomon Islands rose at almost three times the global average - about 7 to 10mm per year.

New Zealand and Australia should be doing more to help Solomon Islanders, who have had no help from the international community, Dr Albert said.

"Some of the communities are extremely remote - there is no communication - and they've had fundamentally zero support from the international community.

"And their adapting and relocating just out of their own resources which are pretty limited."

He said Nuatambu Island in the Solomon Islands has lost more than half its habitable area since 2011, with 11 houses washing into the sea.

The islands that have disappeared ranged in size from one to five hectares, Dr Albert said.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said it saddened him that New Zealand has known about the impacts of climate change, but failed to do anything.

"That really increases the responsibility that we have here in New Zealand to make sure that those islands do have the support that they need to adapt to climate change, and to finally get around to doing something about our own greenhouse gas emissions."

Mr Shaw says the government should immediately ratify the Paris climate agreement.

The report also revealed many of those forced to move had been living in the same areas for areas for generations.

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