NEWS Environmental taxes will gather $900,000 for the government of the Cook Islands in the current financial year. Not one dollar of that will be spent on a full time climate change worker. Lack of focus on climate change follows years of random approaches to the issue. “We had problems with lost files so we are trying to build a database,” reports Pasha Carruthers, Climate Change Technical Officer for the National Environment Services. Carruthers says the country lacks a consistent approach to climate change. “There’s still a lot of work being done by different agencies. A country team has not been maintained. Staff are only project based. For example, I went from this project, to Mauke and Aitutaki. If there’s no projects, there’s no climate change person at any agency driving this process full time so there’s a risk that there’s no continuity.” Government is increasingly out of step with increasing awareness and action on climate change. Bishop Stuart O’Connell says the Catholic church has strong instructions from Rome to seek action. “We have been told to get cracking on this issue. “We have a conference on Bishops in Fiji and August and have been told to gather information for this.” Nor is this the first time. “It was first raised by 25 years ago but it wasn’t picked up by anyone then.” Now it has. More than 40 people attended the first day of the WWF and National Environment Services workshop on climate change. Participants were given two stick-on dots – one pink, one green – and asked to apply one each to posters representing eight different sectors Participants ranked impacts on water as the number one concern under climate change. Infrastructure and coastal protection were ranked second and third. Tourism ranked a surprising last as a priority area to address in potential impacts from climate change. Just one person put a sticker under tourism, and only as second priority. Such a ranking reflects low importance placed on tourism despite it being the country’s number one industry.