The Pacific Island nations of Tuvalu and Tokelau have literally run out of water and are in a state of emergency. Here's a blog update from one of our partner organisers in Tuvalu – check it out and you can help out by joining the solidarity action on the 'Two Buckets for Tuvalu and Tokelau' Facebook page.

As governments and aid agencies scramble to deliver desalination plants and bottled water to drought stricken Pacific Island nations of Tuvalu and Tokelau, other Pacific Island nations – Samoa and the Cook Islands – are preparing for a similar fate. Is this band-aid approach to solving this problem going to be enough? Redina Auina, spokeswoman for the Tuvalu Faith Based Youth network, who partner with, is in Tuvalu and describes the feelings of people as they face the reality of less than 5 days of drinkable water in the nations capital, Funafuti —sites/all/files/transporting_water_in_tuvalu_0.jpeg
Experts say the past 12 months have been the second driest in Funafuti's 78 years of records. While we do not make any claims to it being solely a climate change related event, the reality is that the line between what is normal climatic variation and what might be extremes resulting from accelerated climate change is being blurred. This is particularly true for the hydrological cycle, which is sensitive to even subtle variations in the global climate and often results in either too much water, or in our case at the moment, too little. With an intense La Nina weather pattern over much of the Pacific, we’re not likely to see rain for months to come. It’s these kind of extremes that we are told will become our new reality for Tuvalu and the Pacific region as a whole.

That makes life in Tuvalu very difficult. With severe water rations of 40 litres per day per household of 6-9 people, basic water needs are only just being met. All preschools have been closed since Monday and senior schools are only remaining open for examinations. One mother shared with me “for me personally, we have little water left in our tank and I find that the 2 buckets could barely cover our urgent need for water for the day”. There’s also the very real risk of disease spreading rapidly due to the lack of water for sanitation purposes.

But why are we angry? We are angry because we feel that even though diplomatic missions are mobilizing well to respond to this humanitarian situation, their domestic emission policies will continue to exacerbate such extremes in the future. As Melton Tauetia from the Tuvalu Climate Action Network put it “I respect their [Australia and New Zealand] immediate support but it feels like they are buying the lives of the people with all these desalination plants when they know very well that this is caused by their very high emitting lifestyle and burning of fossil fuels”.

It’s like they are just applying a band-aid at a time, and that is not going to solve the issue at hand. Whilst much more can be done in terms of improving Tuvalu's water security and water conservation measures, there is not much more Tuvalu can do to increase its resilience to climate change.

What’s more, other Pacific island nations – Samoa and the Cook Islands – are also on the brink of water emergencies. We know that the reality for the Pacific region is that there will only be more water emergencies popping up as the climate continues to warm and bring about further climatic extremes. Will we have enough band-aids to go around, will we be able to respond to each crisis?

The only real long-term solution is for the world to find a way to make genuine and rapid cuts in emissions that will get the world to what scientists tell us is the safe limit of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, 350 parts per million. And that will take New Zealand, Australia and other big emitters doing more than just emergency relief. As the spokesperson from the Tuvalu Island Community Youth – who wished to remain anonymous so aptly put it, “I hope this is not a showbiz, but them [Australia, New Zealand, United States] realizing that they have serious actions to take in their own side of the fence because this is Climate Reality”.

So yes, thank you diplomatic missions for listening to the pleas of Pacific Islanders, we hope that you will do the same in December at the United Nations climate conference in Durban, South Africa and commit to ambitious and legally binding emission reduction targets.


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