The impacts of climate change are already being felt across the Pacific, considered to be one of the world’s most-at-risk regions. Small island developing states are mandated extra support under the Paris Agreement. Many are classified as least developed countries, allowing them special access to development funding and loans.
Analysis of climate change adaptation projects in the Pacific shows most focus on rural areas, heavy infrastructure and policy development. Climate change planning for the cities and towns has been limited, despite their rapid growth.
Port Vila, for example, has far outgrown the municipal boundary set out when Vanuatu became independent in 1980. Migration to the urban fringe has resulted in the wider metropolitan area accounting for 26.8% of Vanuatu’s population. These areas are growing at an average rate of 6.6% a year.
The capital of Solomon Islands, Honiara, is experiencing similarly rapid growth. More than a third of its residents live in informal settlements on the city fringes, without legal tenure.
There are few rural economic opportunities and climate change is threatening outer island subsistence crops and fisheries. This means Pacific cities are likely to keep growing for many years to come.
‘Not drowning, fighting’
Despite being exposed to extreme weather and rising seas, many inhabitants of Small Island Developing States resist being framed as “climate vulnerable”.
High exposure to extreme weather and little responsibility for the emissions that are making such events worse mean these states often regard characterisations of fragility and weakness as counterproductive. Pacific leaders regularly avoid describing their citizens as vulnerable to climate change, even during international negotiations.
As president of the 23rd UN Climate Conference, Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama emphasised that Pacific vulnerability was recognised “not to present our people as victims but to emphasise that their interests are your interests”.
Kiribati’s former president, Anote Tong, recently in Australia advocating for stronger climate action, similarly insists that I-Kiribati “must not relocate as climate refugees but as people who would migrate with dignity”. Read more.
SOURCE: THE CONVERSATION