By ANDREW FANASIA
THE Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology (MCDMM) Permanent Secretary Dr. Melchior Mataki says COVID-19 has forced his ministry to put climate change behind.
He made this response when members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and Opposition Leader Mathew Wale queried if the ministry is still prioritising climate change amidst this COVID-19 pandemic.
Wale said that as the impacts of COVID-19 on the country stretch into 2020 there is a real risk that longer-term strategic action on climate change will take a back seat.
He added that this means the country’s small atoll islands will struggle to keep up with rising tides risk losing further ground.
“What is happening or not happen concerning sea level rise and climate change?” Wale questioned.
Dr Mataki in his response said that yes his ministry has to put climate change issues aside due to the restrictions they have on their resources that were allocated to do that particular work.
“The other type of activities where externally funded projects for example are continuing,” he added.
But he admitted that there were some issues as well with it because people who were supposed to travel from outside into the country cannot travel at this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“So in nutshell, we are doing whatever we can do to address this ongoing impact of climate change.
“And the other important point is that COVID-19 is on top of the ongoing issue that we have to deal with which is climate change and of course other environmental issues,” Dr. Mataki said.
He also admitted that his ministry is under constraint with resources that are available to them at the moment.