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Pacific island Kiribati buys land in Fiji to escape climate change



Kiribati has finalised the purchase of 20 sq km of land on Vanua Levu, a Fijian island, in order to give its people somewhere to grow food or to escape to, should the country continue to be affected by rising sea levels.

Kiribati’s president Anote Tong said, “We would hope not to put everyone on [this] one piece of land, but if it became absolutely necessary, yes, we could do it.”

Negotiations between Kiribati and the Fijian government started back in 2012, when the president became increasingly worried about the fate of its people, whose homes were at risk of being lost because of rising sea levels.

At the time, Tong said, “Our people will have to move as the tides have reached our homes and villages. This is the last resort, there’s no way out of this one.”

Kiribati bought the land for $8.77m from the Church of England and will initially use it to grow food, as the sea is contaminating groundwater on its islands.

A Kiribati citizen recently lost their appeal for climate change asylum in New Zealand. He claimed the status of climate refugee, as he said there was no future in Kiribati for him and his family and they were in danger for climate change, but the court rejected his plea.

The issue of ‘drowning’ small islands was discussed during the latest World Environment Day, held in the Caribbean in June. Island states including Barbados, Kiribati, Maldives and Marshall Islands – some of which are greening their economies – called for polluting developed nations to take strong action in limiting their greenhouse gas emissions and switch to a low-carbon economy.

Photo: KevGuy4101 via flickr

Further reading:

Swimming against the tide: the Pacific nations fighting a losing battle with climate change

Kiribati citizen sees New Zealand climate asylum plea rejected

Kiribati citizen seeks ‘climate asylum’ in New Zealand

‘Climate change has already arrived’, president of the Marshall Islands warns

Rising sea levels force Pacific Islanders to relocate