Planet Earth: Our Loving Home
 
Timor-Leste: Feeling the Consequences of Climate Change      
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Climate change already impacted our country in terms of water resources, agriculture production and also loss of biodiversity and loss of our equipment, especially for those areas that are vulnerable to the drought and flooding and also sea level rising.

Halo gracious viewers and welcome to this week’s edition of Planet Earth: Our Loving Home where we will be examining the impacts of climate change on the island nation of Timor-Leste as well as hear from some of the country’s top environmental officials regarding the steps the nation is taking to address this serious issue.

Located in Southeast Asia to the northwest of Australia, The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste includes the eastern half of Timor Island and other territories. Approximately 1.1 million people inhabit this splendid country characterized by mountainous terrain and a tropical climate . Let us first hear from Mr. Adao Soares Barbosa who is deeply involved in setting Timor-Leste’s climate change policy.

My name is Adao Soares Barbosa. I am a National Focal Point for the United Nations Commission of Climate Change and as well as I’m acting as a climate change negotiator to the United Nations. Besides that, I also have been acting as a national advisor for developing a strategy plan for the environment for 20 years and also acting as an advisor for the Administrator of Economic Development as a climate change technical person to address the international issue of climate change.

We asked Mr. Soares Barbosa about the effects of climate change as seen in Timor-Leste.

We have El Niño, every four years we have a problem with drought, and desertification. La Niña can result in some flooding. So during the La Niña time, we have a lot of rain, so we have high density rain patterns. But for El Niño, every four years we have drought.

In the past 30 years over 2.8 billion people have been affected by floods worldwide, with over 95% of them residing in Asia.

Floods deeply impact families, homes and livelihoods. Widespread crop damage caused by flooding can have an immensely negative effect on a nation’s ability to feed itself, and injures social welfare and a country’s economy.

During 2009, 2010, we have had some problems with floodings that affected at least 6,000 people in Timor-Leste. They needed to be evacuated to safe places due to the problem of floodings. And then we have also a problem with our national agriculture production. In 2002, 2003, we lost corn production by 34%.

Statistical data is indicating that we have a problem with drought and flooding affecting our, food security and agriculture production in Timor-Leste. And we also have a problem with our bridges and roads infrastructure. In Suai in 2007, 2008, our bridges in Suai were damaged by flooding, not only Suai, even in Loes, even in Manatuto, even in Laleia.

We have problems with flooding that affected our bridges in Timor-Leste. And also landslides. Recently in Quelicai, thousands lost their infrastructure, they lost their houses, they lost their rice fields and also other crops. So this is very important for us. That needs to be addressed by developing appropriate action at national and international levels.

Respected Australian oceanographer Dr. John Church is part of the Marine and Atmospheric Research division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which is Australia’s national science agency. He is an expert on sea level rise and has studied its effects on Asia and elsewhere.

The reasons for sea-level rise are firstly warming of the oceans. The oceans are absolutely central to climate change. If you want to understand climate change, you have to understand the oceans. They have absorbed a huge amount of heat. As they warm, they expand and sea-level rises.

There are many islands in the Pacific the Indian oceans, that will all be impacted by sea level rise, and perhaps more important are the many deltas around the world, where there are many large populations living right next to the coast. Not only is sea level rising, but the land in these regions is sinking also. These combined impacts will have very serious implications through the 21st century and beyond.

We also have sea level rise problems. When the government, the government of Indonesia, in the 1980s, they opened a road along Pantai Kelapa there was a big separation between sea water and land, but now it’s already impacted and this road is already impacted by sea water, by waves. So this is indicating we have a sea level rise problem as well.

A stark reality faced by many island nations right now is the danger of totally disappearing. On October 17, 2009, the government of the Maldives conducted a cabinet meeting entirely underwater, where the nation’s president His Excellency Mohamed Nasheed and other top officials signed a document calling for all countries to take immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to protect low-lying nations.

The Maldives is less than one meter above sea level. So if there is no action, by 2020, the Maldives will be lost. If the Maldives is lost, how can we evacuate Maldivians to be in other countries? For this we have to establish international mechanisms, insurance for losses and damage.

We need to have an international mechanism that ensures vulnerable people to be safe at that time, if temperatures increase. Even for Timor-Leste, if Timor-Leste will lose land, then we will ask for an international insurance mechanism to address this issue by allocation of some amount of money for us to take adaptation actions.

Augusto Mario Pinto, Timor-Leste’s director of the National Directorate of Environment as well as the State Secretary for Environment is also highly concerned about global warming and strongly believes in the necessity of cooperation between governments and people of all nations to overcome the climate change challenge.

If only several countries protect and conserve the environment, but the other groups, they still destroy it, then, I think it doesn't make sense because the issues are still there, and climate change issues will come up. Because once we are talking about environmental issues or climate change, it's borderless. So, if there is any air pollution in Australia, it's not meant that only Australia will get impacted, but Timor-Leste can get impacted, Indonesia can get impacted or Pacific countries can also get impacted.

So we need to think that the environment is not only the responsibility of the local people or of one single country, but this is our responsibility. So people in this world, we need to be together. Not only think about the economic situation. We need to think globally, but we should act locally. This is a very important thing. Otherwise you just talk and talk, but if you do not act locally, then the issues are still there.

Timor-Leste is taking various actions and is employing a number of different policies to tackle the issue of global warming. Mr. Soares Barbosa now provides more details.

The government has established two directorates as part of an institutional arrangement to address climate change issues. The first directorate is a national one for the environment, and the second directorate is a national directorate for international environmental affairs.

Those two directorates are assigned by the government of Timor-Leste to formulate programs and action plans to address climate change issues at a national level and at the same time those two directorates are working together with other related ministries at a national level to formulate appropriate plans of action to address climate change issues, for now and for the future.

Second is the government of Timor-Leste ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 2006, and it came into force in 2007. And then, thirdly, the government of Timor-Leste also ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2008, and it came into force in January 2009.

And then, the fourth step of the government of Timor-Leste to address climate change issues is that the government is currently developing a national policy on the environment that governs all related issues regarding climate change.

And the fifth commitment of the government of Timor-Leste is that we are developing our own national strategic plan for 20 years that will be approved by the Council of Ministers by the end of this year. This covers everything related to adaptation, mitigation, capacity building and also financial resources that we are requiring to address climate change adaptation and to adopt some sorts of new technology to address climate change issues in the vital sectors.

And sixth the government of Timor-Leste is working closely with international communities. We are developing our national adaptation program of action to address climate change issues. The project is undergoing. So the aim of this project is to identify, to prioritize the needs of adaptation measures that could be made, could be implemented by the government of Timor-Leste at national levels so that our community could adapt to the climate change impact that we are facing now in terms of climate change impacts to the agriculture sectors.

Climate change is faced by our water resources, and other related issues in terms of food security and health as well. Even infrastructure, we involve all those stakeholders together so we make our national plan to address climate change adaptation. And then the next commitment is that we are going to have a national report on climate change.

We called it Initial National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Then the last commitment, we are promoting solar panel use. We are promoting a biogas project. We are promoting a hydropower project, and we are promoting also a wind power project in various locations in Timor-Leste, that could generate electricity in our rural communities but at the same time there will be no emissions.

To close, our sincere thanks Secretariat of State for Environment Adao Soares Barbosa and director of the National Directorate of Environment and State Secretary for Environment Augusto Mario Pinto for taking time from your busy schedules to discuss Timor-Leste’s national response to climate change and we wish you and all the citizens of Timor-Leste the brightest of futures.

For more details on the nation of Timor Leste, please visit www.Gov.East-Timor.org

Through encouraging the gentler care of our planet and compassionate living, all nations of the world can work together to quickly overcome climate change. Gracious viewers, thank you for joining us today on Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. Coming up next is Enlightening Entertainment right after Noteworthy News. May your days be filled with sunshine and much love.

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