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• Jan Lee reports that New Zealand is preparing a climate change refugee program to help their island neighbors that will be heavily impacted by rising sea levels.
• Are visa programs sufficient to cope with the expected influx of climate refugees?
• Read more about the future of climate migration.
Faced with the looming prospect of entire islands disappearing under rising sea levels, New Zealand is designing the world’s first climate change refugee visa program. Islands like Kiribati, which has been on the list for funding from the Green Climate Fund for years, is slowly being swallowed up by rising seas. Residents of Kirbati and Tuvalu, another Pacific Island, had applied to New Zealand for refugee status but were turned down since the state did not have a political mechanism by which to accept environmental refugees.
That is now changing. The new Labor-Green Party coalition sees the South Pacific’s environmental problems as a platform issue, as recently elected Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed in a discussion with former Vice President Al Gore.
Of course, resettling refugees won’t be simple in a country that is half the size of California and is considered 77th on the list of biggest nations. The Kiribati and Tuvalu islands have more than 100,000 residents. Fiji has already set up the framework for a relocation process, but many of the 11 principal islands in the area will be struggling in future years to adjust to climate change. Coastal degradation is only one part of the impact: drinking water access, excessive heat and storm surge are major threats for coastal communities, particularly on the area’s smallest islands.
And it’s getting some input from other parts of the world, where experts have been studying refugee migration and how countries respond to the need. One expert at John Hopkins University pointed out that it may not be enough to offer individual visas for refugees: larger, more comprehensive strategies may be necessary for entire populations.
Read the full article about the world's first climate change refugee visa program by Jan Lee at TriplePundit.