Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 1029–1038 | Cite as

Climate change and migration in the Pacific: options for Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands

  • Amy Louise Constable
Original Article


As climate change impacts, particularly rising sea levels, manifest there is a high probability that some island populations will be faced with the need to relocate. This article discusses several discourses around migration options for people affected by climate change impacts in small island developing states. Options currently available to citizens of the Pacific nations of Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands are explored, including the perspective that high levels of customary land tenure in the Pacific are a barrier to permanent movement to other Pacific countries. Migration to Pacific Rim countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the USA is complicated by strict migration eligibility criteria, which often require proof of language abilities and income, and may restrict the number of accompanying dependants. The Compact of Free Association provides visa-free entry to the USA for citizens of the Marshall Islands, but the lack of financial assistance restricts eligibility to those with existing financial resources or family networks that can provide access to capital. The difficulty of directly attributing single weather/climate events to climate change hinders the formulation of a definition of climate change-related migration. This obstacle in turn hinders the establishment of effective visa categories and migration routes for what is likely to become a growing number of people in coming decades.


Climate change Climate change migration Migration Tuvalu Republic of the Marshall Islands 



This article is an edited version of a thesis submitted to the Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University. Many thanks to the people who generously offered insights into the complex issue of migrating from home. Particular thanks to A/Prof Janette Lindesay, Dr Tony Weir and Dr Ian Fry for their guidance and assistance with developing this research. I also thank the two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fenner School of Environment and SocietyAustralian National UniversityCanberraAustralia

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