Australia offers visas to Tuvalu residents displaced by climate change
Australia will offer residency to people in Tuvalu displaced by climate change.
Up to 280 Tuvaluans from the South Pacific island nation, home to 11,200 people, will be able to migrate to Australia each year under a new visa that gives them the right to live, work, and study in the country.
Tuvalu has long called for action as one of the world’s most at-risk nations from rising sea levels and climate change: The World Bank and the United Nations have warned it could face total depopulation.
Tuvalu faces an extraordinary threat from rising sea levels. During high tide, nearly 40% of the capital is submerged — and some estimate that the country will be entirely underwater by 2100. Tuvalu has long grappled with how to protect itself from the existential threat climate change poses, exploring out-of-the-box options to preserve itself: Late last year, the country said it would be the first to entirely digitize itself on the metaverse. “The idea is to continue to function as a state and beyond that to preserve our culture, our knowledge, our history in a digital space,” Foreign Minister Simon Kofe told Reuters.
Climate change and geopolitical conflicts are expected to displace record numbers of people in 2023. Last year, 71 million people were pushed from their homes, due to both climate-related disasters and Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. In Pakistan, eight million people were pushed out from their homes following deadly monsoons, a leading cause of the sky-high displacement numbers. “Factors like food insecurity, climate change, and escalating and protracted conflicts are adding new layers” to the displacement phenomenon, Alexandra Bilak, director of the Norwegian Refugee Council’s Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, said in May.
Some island nations are pursuing legal routes to protect themselves against rising sea levels. In September, the prime ministers of both Tuvalu and Antigua and Barbuda gave evidence at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The tribunal is believed to be the first ever climate justice case which centers on the threat to the oceans, and the court is considering what obligations countries have to mitigate pollution. Oceans operate as massive carbon sinks, collecting 25% of carbon dioxide emissions. Excessive pollution could impact their ability to absorb additional carbon.