As the world continues to grapple with the effects of climate change, it is unanimously agreed that low-lying island nations are some of the countries worst affected. Now, the World Bank has issued a policy paper, arguing that as an adaptation measure, countries like Australia and New Zealand should consider implementing a structured migration program for these “climate migrants.”
The paper, titled Pacific Possible, outlines that the Pacific Island nations of Tuvalu and Kiribati are particularly vulnerable to climate change, given the rising sea levels that have already began to encroach upon land and homes across the islands.
The World Bank argues that implementing a structured migration program now would boost these struggling island economies, while also avoiding a later mass forced migration. “The worsening impacts of climate change have provided a new moral imperative for providing open access,” says the report.
According to The Guardian, the report forecasts that with open migration, about 1,300 Kiribati and Tuvaluans would migrate to Australia and New Zealand annually. This figure equates to about 0.6% of those countries’ combined annual permanent migration programs.
Seventeen people from the Pacific, have already made refugee claims in New Zealand, citing climate change as part of their claim. They are yet to be successful, as the Refugee Convention does not recognise climate change as grounds for protection.
Both the Australian Prime Minister and the Foreign Affairs Minister have hinted at a more formal migration arrangement with the Pacific Islands moving forward. Meanwhile, the New Zealand government has said that its key focus in addressing climate change was to direct efforts towards a global reduction in emissions.