Advertisement

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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

Notes

Acknowledgments

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.

References

  1. Adams D (12/10/2005) 50m environmental refugees by the end of decade, UN wants: States urged to prepare for victims of climate change. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2005/oct/12/naturaldisasters.climatechange1. Accessed 10 July 2014
  2. Adger N (05/11/2007) The green list: the shape of things to come? A leading climate change scientist gives his prediction of what living with the effects of climate change would be like within 50 years. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2007/nov/05/greenlist.comment1. Accessed 10 July 2014
  3. AusAid (2008) Making land work. Volume one: reconciling customary land and development in the Pacific. http://dfat.gov.au/about-us/publications/Documents/MLW_VolumeOne_Bookmarked.pdf. Accessed 12 Apr 2016
  4. Bedford R, Bedford C (2010) International migration and climate change: a post-Copenhagen perspective on options for Kiribati and Tuvalu. In: Burson B (ed) Climate change and migration—South Pacific perspectives. Institute of Policy Studies, Wellington, pp 89–134Google Scholar
  5. Bedford R, Burson B, Bedford C (2014) Compendium of legislation and institutional arrangements for labour migration in Pacific Island Countries. Pasifika Communications, SuvaGoogle Scholar
  6. Burson B (2012) Securing meaningful international agreement on climate change related displacement and migration. In: Leckie S, Simperingham E, Bakker J (eds) Climate change and displacement reader. Routledge, Oxon, pp 159–173Google Scholar
  7. Campbell JR (2014) Climate-change migration in the Pacific. Contemp Pac 26:1–28. doi: 10.1353/cp.2014.0023 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Campbell JR (2015) Development, global change and traditional food security in the Pacific Island countries. Reg Environ Change 15:1313–1324. doi: 10.007/s10113-014-0687-6 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Campbell JR, Warrick O (2014) Climate change and migration issues in the Pacific. http://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/Climate-Change-and-Migration-Issues-in-the-Pacific.pdf. Accessed 12 Apr 2016
  10. Collett L (2009) A fair-weather friend? Australia’s relationship with a climate-changed Pacific. The Australia Institute. http://www.tai.org.au/node/1499. Accessed 15 Sept 2014
  11. Colville R (2007) Sinking states. The Guardian. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/sep/17/sinkingstates. Accessed 06 July 2014
  12. Connell J (2013) Soothing breezes? Island perspectives on climate change and migration. Aust Geogr 44:465–480. doi: 10.1080/00049182.2013.852497 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Connell J (2015) Vulnerable Islands: climate change, tectonic change, and changing livelihoods in the Western Pacific. Contemp Pac 27:1–36. doi: 10.1353/cp.2015.0014 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. De Souza RM, Henly-Shepard S, McNamara K, Ferdando N (2015) Re-framing island nations as champions of resilience in the face of climate change and disaster risk. http://collections.unu.edu/eserv/UNU:2856/Reframing_island_nations_W_P_No_17.pdf. Accessed 13 Apr 2016
  15. Farbotko C (2010) Wishful sinking: disappearing islands, climate refugees and cosmopolitan experimentation. Asia Pac Viewp 51:47–60. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8373.2010.001413.x CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Farbotko C, Lazrus H (2012) The first climate refugees? Contesting global narratives of climate change in Tuvalu. Glob Environ Change 22:382–390. doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2011.11.014 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Farbotko C, Stratford E, Lazrus H (2016) Climate migrants and new identities? The geopolitics of embracing or rejecting mobility. Soc Cult Geogr 17:533–552. doi: 10.1080/14649365.2015.1089589 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Godfrey M (2014) New Zealand has let down climate change refugees. The Guardian. http://search.proquest.com/docview/1527454157?accountid=8330. Accessed 10 July 2014
  19. Hau’Ofa E (1994) Our sea of islands. Contemp Pac 06:147–161Google Scholar
  20. Hugo G (1996) Environmental concerns and international migration. Int Migr Rev 30:105–131. doi: 10.2307/2547462 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2014) Climate change 2014: impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability. Part B: regional aspects. Contribution of working group II to the fifth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, USA, pp 1613–1654Google Scholar
  22. International Organisation for Migration (2015) Definitional Issues. https://www.iom.int/definitional-issues. Accessed 16 Apr 2016
  23. Jetnil-Kijiner K (2012) Slam Poetry from an Atoll Nation—Marshall Islands. http://350.org/slam-poetry-atoll-nation-marshall-islands. Accessed 16 Apr 2016
  24. Kälin W (2012) From the Nansen principles to the Nansen initiative. Forced Migr Rev 41:48–49Google Scholar
  25. Kenneth G (2009) Papua New Guinea’s first “climate change refugees” abandon new homes. BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific. http://search.proquest.com/docview/460763338?accountid=8330. Accessed 13 July 2014
  26. Kenny M (2013) Australians want boat arrivals treated more harshly: poll. Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/australians-want-boat-arrivals-treated-more-harshly-poll-20140108-30g97.html. Accessed 10 Oct 2014
  27. Kothari U (2013) Political discourses of climate change and migration: resettlement policies in the Maldives. Geogr J 180:130–140. doi: 10.1111/geoj.12032 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lopez A (2012) The protection of environmentally displaced persons in international law. In: Leckie S, Simperingham E, Bakker J (eds) Climate change and displacement reader. Routledge, Oxon, pp 174–203Google Scholar
  29. MacFarquhar N (29/05/2009) Refugees join list of climate change issues. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/29/world/29refugees.html. Accessed 25 June 2016
  30. Marino E, Ribot J (2012) Adding insult to injury: climate change and the inequities of climate intervention. Glob Environ Change 22:323–328. doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2012.03.001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McAdam J (2011) Swimming against the tide: why a climate change displacement treaty is not the answer. Int J Refug Law 23:2–27. doi: 10.1093/ijrl/eeq045 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. McAdam J (2012) Climate change, forced migration and international law. Oxford University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Migration (Climate Refugees) Amendment Bill 2007 (Commonwealth of Australia)Google Scholar
  34. Morales A (2014) WWII skeletons washed from graves by rising Pacific Ocean as world warms. Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/wwii-skeletons-washed-from-graves-by-rising-pacific-ocean-as-world-warms-20140607-zs0iu.html. Accessed 14 Sept 2014
  35. Mortreux C, Barnett J (2009) Climate change, migration and adaptation in Funafuti, Tuvalu. Glob Environ Change 19:105–112. doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2008.09.006 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. New Zealand Immigration (2016a) Pacific Access Category. http://www.immigration.govt.nz/migrant/stream/live/pacificaccess/. Accessed 16 Apr 2016
  37. New Zealand Immigration (2016b) Pacific Access Category (Tuvalu) Registration Guide. http://www.immigration.govt.nz/NR/rdonlyres/23EE5CBE-8C70-4B6F-BBD3-8FF8D7C38382/0/INZ1229.pdf. Accessed 16 Apr 2016
  38. New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2013) New Zealand’s immigration relationship with Tuvalu. Ministry of Foreign Affairs. http://www.mfat.govt.nz/Foreign-Relations/Pacific/NZ-Tuvalu-immigration.php. Accessed 16 Sept 2014
  39. Saul B, Sherwood S, McAdam J, Slezak J (2012) Climate change and Australia. Warming to the global challenge. The Federation Press, SydneyGoogle Scholar
  40. Sercombe B, Albanese A (2006) Our drowning neighbours: labors policy discussion on climate change in the Pacific. Australian Labor Party, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  41. Simmons BA (2009) Mobilizing for human rights: international law in domestic politics. Cambridge University Press, New York CityCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Smith R, McNamara KE (2014) Future migrations from Tuvalu and Kiribati: exploring government, civil society and donor perceptions. Clim Dev 07:47–59. doi: 10.1080/17565529.2014.900603 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Stephen M (2011) Oh Nauru, a Sinking Feeling. The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/19/opinion/19stephen.html?_r=0>. Accessed 14 July 2014
  44. Stratford E, Farbotko C, Lazrus H (2013) Tuvalu, sovereignty and climate change: considering Fenua, the archipelago and emigration. Isl Stud J 08:67–83Google Scholar
  45. Teitiota v Chief Executive of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (NZHC 3125) 2013Google Scholar
  46. Türk V (2014) Discussion Forum on Climate Change. http://www.unhcr.org/542e99719.html. Accessed 16 Apr 2016
  47. United Nations General Assembly (1951) Convention relating to the status of refugees. United Nations, Treaty Series, vol 189. http://www.unhcr.org/3b66c2aa10.html. Accessed 10 Sept 2014
  48. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (2015) Guidance on protecting people from disasters and environmental change through planned relocation. http://www.unhcr.org/562f798d9.html. Accessed 16 Apr 2016

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

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

Personalised recommendations