We are not drowning – we are fighting! Fight with us! Round trip with Rev. James Bhagwan, Fiji

We are not drowning, we are fighting! Fight with us! – Round trip with Rev. Bhagwan, Fiji

Oceans in the climate crisis

From 26 September to 3 October 2019, Fair Oceans and the Oceania-Dialogue organised a speaker/lobby tour with Rev. James Bhagwan, General Secretary of the Pacific Conference of Churches.

Climate change has been leaving its mark on the oceans and seas for years. Water temperatures and sea levels are rising, and the lack of oxygen and acidification of seawater are increasing simultaneously. This has an impact on currents and weather systems and profoundly changes marine ecosystems worldwide. In particular, the condition of sensitive ecosystems such as mangrove forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs is deteriorating. This is also exacerbated by other negative influencing factors such as overfishing, habitat loss, eutrophication or the immigration of new species. The forecasts are dramatic and the IPCC’s „Special Report on the Oceans and the Cryosphere in a Changing Climate“ presents the latest scientific findings.

The consequences of the climate crisis in the oceans are most evident for the island states. It is not without reason that they have been demanding an ambitious international climate policy for many years. The social effects of the climate impacts in Oceania are extensive and are existentially threatening the region. The sectors health, coastal protection, nutrition and water supply are affected. Entire cultures and their ways of life are threatened with extinction. The coastal communities – in particular the poorest – are heavily dependent on an intact marine environment and have little capacity to respond to the climate crisis. Here, in the South Pacific, it is shown that sea and land must be seen as a unit, as a fluid continent.

„The IPCC Special Report does not simply summarize the state of scientific research on the effects of climate change on the oceans and coasts, for us it describes a reality of life with which we are already confronted.”

On 25 September 2019, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in Monaco presented its „IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and the Cryosphere in a Changing Climate“.

The current Special Report is of particular relevance because, among other things, it makes quite clear that the oceans and seas have been neglected in climate policy for too long. James Bhagwan, General Secretary of the Pacific Church Conference, said on the occasion of the joint round trip on the perspective of the Pacific island states: „The IPCC Special Report does not simply summarize the state of scientific research on the climate consequences for the oceans and coasts, for us it describes a reality of life with which we are already confronted today. (…) Climate change is our everyday life. We in the Pacific do not see ourselves as mere victims of climate change. Without the island states, the oceans would hardly have become part of the UN Agenda 2030, nor would we have the orientation of 1.5 degrees in climate policy. We are fighting and I am here to challenge the German climate movement to fight together with us“.

Kai Kaschinski , coordinator of Fair Oceans , evaluates the IPCC Special Report:

„It was not only climate protection measures that were neglected by politicians. Essential aspects of climate change were ignored. Only after questions of climate justice had been included and accepted by the industrialized countries the international negotiations began to move again. Now finally with the stronger inclusion of the oceans in climate policy, urgently needed protection and adaptation measures along the coasts can be tackled on the basis of a comprehensive accessment. Climate and maritime policy are fundamentally global tasks that can only be solved across the board. The Special Report reinforces our assessment of developments and we are very pleased that many of our questions have been taken up. Ultimately, however, it will be crucial that we do not consider climate policy in isolation. Measures against climate change must neither endanger species and nature conservation nor disregard issues of human rights and justice.“

Jan Pingel, coordinator of the Oceania Dialogue, continues: „Many underestimate how much we are connected to the oceans. Our economy, our cities, our leisure time and last but not least our climate, everything depends to a greater or lesser extent on the oceans. This is particularly evident in the small island developing countries in the Pacific. The entire existence of these countries is directly linked to the oceans and thus today involuntarily with the success of an international climate policy based on solidarity, which takes account of the changes in the oceans and lends its full weight on this issue. The island states are otherwise the first to perish. Their position above sea level is literally the yardstick for the success or failure of climate policy“.

„The climate crisis and the sea: climate protection instead of coral mortality“ was also the topic of an expert discussion in the German Bundestag organized by the Green parliamentary group. Steffi Lemke (spokeswoman for nature conservation) and her colleague Lisa Badum (spokeswoman for climate protection) invited Rev. Bhagwan, who presented an urgent appeal for climate protection, as well as Prof. Hans-Otto Pörtner, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and author of the IPCC report, Dr. Gerd Kraus, from the Thünen Institute for Sea Fisheries and Thilo Maack from Greenpeace.

Prof. Pörtner was able to report extensively on the IPCC Special Report published two days earlier, which he contributed significantly to, Dr. Gerd Kraus showed with his presentation the already existing effects of climate change on fish stocks in the North Sea and Baltic Sea, Thilo Maack emphasized that the oceans are the largest allies in climate change and gave an overview of the legal situation of the ocean protected areas.



Public lectures within the 11th  Hamburg Climate week with Rev. James Bhagwan were the prelude to the public events.

The public events with Rev. James Bhagwan kicked off with public lectures during the 11th Hamburg Climate Week. Even the opening service of the Climate Week, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) the largest European climate communication event, was co-designed by Rev. James Bhagwan via video message:


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From 28.-29.09.2019, the Oceania Dialogue had a stand at the Greenworld Tour trade fair, which took place around St. Petri-Kirchenplatz.  Quite close to the historic church walls, visitors were able to inform themselves, take materials with them or hold conversations via the exhibition „Land under in the Pacific – the consequences of global climate change for the Pacific island states“.





In addition to the lecture by Rev. James Bhagwan “A Pacific Call for Climate Justice” in the parish rooms of St. Peter’s Church, the discussion event “Voyaging through the Rising Seas to the Island of Hope” in the large 360-degree tent of the Climate Week on Hamburg’s Rathausmarkt, was an absolute highlight of the tour.


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Rev. James Bhagwan had opened the Climate Week via video link from Fiji, at the final worship service he could be there himself and concluded the Climate week with a personal message and a renewed appeal for committed climate and marine protection.


In the following some impressions of public discussion events in the context of the Tour Ozeane in der Klimakrise from Berlin, Kiel, Bremen and Hamburg.



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