(Vatican Radio) "The impact of climate change on the Pacific is real. It's not something that's going to happen; it's happening now."
That was the assessment offered by Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, an intergovernmental organization promoting cooperation of independent Pacific states.
On Wednesday, the United States announced it had made a $500 million payment to the United Nation’s Green Climate Fund, which was set up to help developing countries counter climate change.
In an interview with Devin Watkins, Dame Taylor said any unraveling of the COP 21 Paris Climate Agreement could have "a severe impact on the Pacific" and "would be a disaster for us".
Listen to their conversation:
Dame Taylor said leaders of Pacific nations played "a very prominent role in working with governments from Europe and the United States to make sure that [the COP 21 Paris Agreement] came to conclusion".
Severe weather and GDP
She explained that climate change in the Pacific means a worsening of severe weather patterns, particularly cyclones.
"After last year's major Category 5 cyclone that hit Fiji and the losses to the country and the year before Cyclone Pam that hit Vanuatu, what happens in terms of loss of GDP [Gross Domestic Product]? Vanuatu lost 64% of its GDP. Fiji was about 20%. Samoa also had a tsunami and lost 30% of GDP."
She said that, despite being faced with such losses, "what amazes me about these people and the leadership is the determination to survive and the resilience of people, and I think that's what we have to work with and build on."
Not just GDP, but people's lives
Dame Taylor said that people from other parts of the world often ask her, "What's the population of your islands?"
"It doesn't matter if there are three people, thirty people, or three hundred people; it's all the same. They are human beings living on islands which is home."
She said the Pacific comprises 98% of Earth's surface. "Yes, it's not land mass; its water. But they are ocean states... These are resources in the oceans, not just fish, but deep sea resources: the biodiversity of these resources, which are going to be important for humanity."
"Those people who live on those islands are the caretakers, and they are important. They contribute to the livelihoods of others."
Prayer before meetings
On a more cultural note, Dame Taylor said that in the Pacific no meal, meeting of minds, or any gathering of people begins without a short time of prayer for guidance.
"In many of our societies, that's based also on tradition, of asking the Creator for manna to help the conversation, to bring good resolution."
Despite being from many faiths where she works, Dame Taylor said, "You can ask for a time of quiet, so that the mind is settled... It's not just for the sake of it, but it is really to have God's guidance."
(Devin Sean Watkins)