‘We Don’t Want to Lose Our Roots’ - Dwelling on Pacific climate migration
Betsan Martin, May 2018
Speaking at the UN Climate Conference in Bonn in 2017 a leader from the Island of Tuvalu said ‘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.’
The first priority for Pacific Peoples is to reverse climate change, which means action from industrial countries.
Some relocation is inevitable as Pacific Island nations bear severe cyclones, loss of fresh water and as food production restricted, or destroyed.
There is disagreement about legal status of climate migrants. Ideas of using ‘climate refugee’ status and special visas have been discussed to address the forced relocation for Pacific peoples.
A new ‘Humanitarian visa’ would allow for the dignity of choice. However, Visas and extending refugee status to climate-displaced people are individual criteria, whereas those displaced by climate change are villages and whole communities.
Self-determination is a key concern for Pacific peoples climate change and relocation policy – an interest protected in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous peoples. The question of international solidarity comes to the fore as the matter of climate justice responsibilities come to the fore.
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