According to the Australian government, Australia and the island nation of Tuvalu signed a “groundbreaking” agreement on Friday outside of the regional Pacific Island Forum. Australia will establish a special admission program for Tuvalu residents, allowing them to come to Australia, live, and work. Initially, the agreement permits 280 people from Tuvalu to migrate to Australia annually.
According to a report from the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is expected to declare that Australia will ultimately offer climate asylum to all 11,200 residents of Tuvalu. The newspaper cites individuals familiar with the matter.
Tuvalu is a collection of nine low-lying islands in the Pacific and is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change globally. Situated north of New Zealand and east of Papua New Guinea, the highest point on the islands is only about five meters above sea level.
The South Pacific region, including Tuvalu, is experiencing a rapid rise in sea levels due to global warming. Tuvalu, like other islands in the area, is anticipated to be largely inundated in the coming decades. Experts estimate that the archipelago could be completely submerged by the sea within 100 years.
A year ago, in response to these threats, Tuvalu declared at the climate conference in Cairo its ambition to become the world’s first digital nation. Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister, Simon Kofe, stated on Twitter, “Islands like this one won’t survive rapid temperature increases, rising sea levels…so we’ll recreate them virtually. Piece by piece, we’ll preserve our country…” He further explained that Tuvalu plans to create a digital version of itself, preserving its history and culture in the cloud.
Protection of Polar Regions: Climate Consultations in Paris
While radical solutions for the consequences of the climate crisis need to be found in the Pacific, politicians and experts are meeting at a summit in Paris to discuss how glaciers and polar regions can be protected and the rise in sea levels can be halted. In preparation, a Parisian call for the protection of the Arctic, Antarctica, and glaciers is set to be released at the meeting on Friday. The Polar Summit is part of a One Planet Summit series initiated by French President Emmanuel Macron at the UN Climate Conference in Bonn in 2017. Germany’s Federal Minister for the Environment, Steffi Lemke (Green Party), is participating in the summit.
Featured Image: TCAP/UNDP