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'Pacific needs help to combat climate change'

NEWZEALAND: Developed countries need to act urgently to help vulnerable Pacific island nations cope with climate change, international aid group Oxfam said Monday.

By the year 2050, about 75 million people could be forced to leave their homes due to climate change in the Asia-Pacific region, the Oxfam report said.

"Climate change has the potential to affect almost every issue linked to poverty and development in the Pacific," said Oxfam New Zealand executive director Barry Coates.

"Without immediate action 50 years of development gains in poor countries will be permanently lost," he said.

Coral atolls are particularly vulnerable, including countries such as Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands, which consist solely of atolls that often rise only two to three metres (six to nine feet) above sea level.

Climate change is expected to worsen storm surges, cyclones and high tides. "Scientists have also projected an increase in diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, together with significant soil and coastal erosion as a result of climate change," Oxfam said.

Unless wealthy, developed countries like Australia and New Zealand take urgent action to curb emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, some island nations in the Pacific could become uninhabitable, Oxfam said.

Oxfam estimated that around 150 billion US dollars would be needed every year to fund adaptation and emissions reductions in developing countries on top of existing aid.

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