Relocation due to Climate Change: Mapping the Divergent Responses of the Governments of Tuvalu and Kiribati OS31A-1693 Climate change will continue to impact Pacific Island livelihoods in diverse and complex ways. At the 2009 Copenhagen Conference of Parties to discuss the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Pacific governments argued for the need to limit warming to 1.5 °C. A growing body of literature demonstrates that warming beyond this 2 °C threshold is likely and will result in numerous negative impacts on socio-ecological systems across the world, particularly for low-lying coastal communities (Parry et al, 2009; Smith et al, 2009). These communities will need to manage, if possible,a series of interconnected impacts, such as declining freshwater and food security and diminishing land availability, as a result of sea level rise and increasing extreme weather events (Adger and Barnett, 2009). Discussions concerning climate change as a trigger for relocation for low-lying Pacific nations have been contentious, and are fuelled by emotion and varying degrees of sensitivity. As Hayward-Jones (2010: 2) lamented: ‘What is at stake over the next decade is not a sinking island but the very viability of life on this fragile atoll state. The land mass of Tuvalu will still exist in 2020 but it may be unable to support the population’. While this debate has historical roots, and indeed the phenomenon of relocation due to localised environmental degradation is not something new in the Pacific, it remains a significant contemporary issue. Scholars have argued that a ‘successful mix of strategies’ is required to develop culturally-appropriate solutions to this concern about the need for low-lying coastal communities in the Pacific to relocate (Bedford and Bedford, 2010: 93). As such, this paper assesses how the national governments of two low-lying nations in the Pacific – Tuvalu and Kiribati – are mapping out very different long-term strategies to respond to climate change impacts and concerns about the possibility of relocation. The governments of Tuvalu and Kiribati have chosen very different pathways for responding to climate change and future losses to coastal public infrastructure and the potential inability to sustain coastal livelihoods and settlements in the future. For Tuvalu, relocation as a result of climate change is seen as an option of last resort with rights to land and culture the paramount discourse (McNamara and Gibson, 2009). This position is bound up in people’s connection to place and what this means for identity, culture, spirituality and psychosocial well-being (Mortreux and Barnett, 2009). Willi Telavi, the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, argues that their concern about relocation is the loss of sovereignty. On the other hand, Kiribati is planning for staggered international migration ‘on merit’, backed by a government policy to re-train its people to migrate in the future to Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. In line with this policy, the Kiribati Government has recently purchased 5,000 acres of land in Savusavu, Fiji. Mapping these divergent strategies, through an analysis of government policies and interviews with officials, provides scope to understand the driving forces behind these positions, and importantly, debate the merits and pitfalls of both adaptation and relocation as approaches to ensure the future security and sustainability of low-lying coastal communities in the Pacific.
Karen E McNamara1, Sarah Hemstock1, Roy Smith2, Elisabeth A Holland1 1. University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji; 2. Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, United Kingdom