Amid concerns that the planet is on track for global temperatures to increase by at least three degrees Celsius, a key church leader from the Pacific island nation of Tuvalu, speaking at the climate change talks currently underway in Bonn, has said that even a two degree increase will mean the "disappearance of our islands".

Rev Tafue Lusama, general secretary of the Tuvalu Christian Church, told delegates at an event organised by the World Council of Churches, Bread for the World, ActionAid, and Climate Action Now - South Asia, that rising temperatures would destroy his culture.

“A two degree Celsius increase in temperature will still mean the disappearance of our islands and homes, and consequently the death of our identity, language and culture,” he said, calling on people to "join us in our fight to keep global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

“We do not want to become forced migrants, to lose our roots, to have no point of reference on the face of the planet. Therefore we need to act now.”

Under the landmark 2015 Paris agreement, countries are obliged to keep global temperature rise to under two degrees. But latest estimates indicate that the planet is on track for at least a three degree rise, causing causing permanent and irreversible loss and damage.

“The government of Tuvalu was already raising the issue of loss and damage as early as 1991,” said Harjeet Singh, climate policy manager at ActionAid and one of the panelists at the side-event. “Because we have failed over the last decades to sufficiently mitigate and adapt to climate change, there is now an urgent need to address climate-induced displacement as well as to provide funds to compensate for the loss and damage.”

While financial compensation is important in helping affected people and communities, Rev Henrik Grape, coordinator of the WCC Working Group on Climate Change, said it is not enough. “How can you value the loss of lives, lands, languages, and cultures in monetary terms?” he asked.

“Clearly these have non-material, even spiritual dimensions. As churches and faith communities, we need to foster deeper discussions on non-economic loss and damage caused by climate change and how it can really be redressed. In such discussions we need to ensure in the first place that the voices of the most vulnerable are heard. And we need to stand in solidarity with them.”

COP23, which is being presided over by the Fijian Government, kicked off in Germany this week and runs until 17th November.

Earlier, the World Council of Churches joined with the ACT Alliance and Lutheran World Federation in call for decision-makers at the conference to follow up the Paris agreement with accountable and ambitious action.

“We must act together for climate justice”, said Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, general secretary of ACT Alliance. “Experts from many of our members will be advocating at COP to ensure that the outcomes reflect the needs and the rights of the most vulnerable”.

Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC general secretary, urged those attending the conference to "take this opportunity again in COP23 to make decisions that lead us in the right way". "It is about who is affected today, who is living in livelihoods that are threatened by what is happening".

- with World Council of Churches news service