Pacific churches have called on France to clean up nuclear waste in Maohi Nui (French Polynesia) less than two months ahead of the United Nations Conference on Climate change in Paris.
While welcoming French promises of assistance to climate change-affected islands in the region, Pacific churches also want compensation for former workers in test sites on Moruroa and Fangataufa atolls.
Pacific Conference of Churches General Secretary, Reverend Francois Pihaatae, said the promises of help for communities affected by climate change were a promising start to new relationships between France and the region.
But he warned that more must be done to ensure justice for Pacific people.
“Nobody can deny that climate change is a pressing global issue which must be addressed by all,” Rev Pihaatae said.
“At the same time we must not overlook the tremendous cost to the environment and human life caused by nuclear testing in the Pacific by France and the United States.
“This damage will be irreversible for several generations.
“Since the late 1960s the PCC, its partners and member churches have called for a nuclear-free Pacific and for compensation and justice for the victims of testing.”
Rev Pihaatae said generations of innocent people in Maohi Nui (French Polynesia) and atolls in the Northern Marianas and the Federated States of Micronesia had been left maimed for life by the nuclear tests.
He said radiation from the tests was passed from parents to children through conception and some villagers had been forced to leave their ancestral homes forever.
“As we approach COP21, Pacific churches call on the French government to do what is morally correct and compensate the victims of testing on Moruroa and Fangataufa,” Rev Pihaatae said.
“Those who have become ill, lost sight, limbs, homes and livelihood must be treated with justice.
“We also call on the United States to treat the people of the Northern Pacific territories with justice and compensate them for their losses.
“It is not enough to address the issue of climate change without also dealing with the nuclear problem which plagues the islands even after testing has stopped.”
Last week, French Ambassador to Fiji, Michael Djokovic, said he had seen and experienced why the Pacific was vulnerable to climate change.
Djokovic said, he saw the effects of climate change on Tuvalu and noted the anxiety in locals and how they were confronted with the rise in sea level.
“Even if the EU cannot agree on all the posts, we will try our best in our European and French account as chair of COP21 to reach an ambitious legally binding agreement, and universal all together from the tiniest country to the biggest one,” he said.