Low lying islands and rising sea

  • The 52 low-lying vulnerable island nations sustain 62 million people and emit less than 1% of global greenhouse gases (GHGs), yet are among the first victims of climate disruption
  • These island nations require immediate remedies, including migration, compensation and reduction in GHG emissions
  • High sea levels have already resulted in displacement of people in several small island nations
  • A sea level rise of 0.5 to 2 m could leave between 1.2 and 2.2 million people displaced from the Caribbean Sea and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. This will set off domestic as well as cross-border migration
Different aspects:
  • Non supporting International Community: The international community does not yet realise its responsibility to enable such migration. For example, on request from Tuvalu’s Prime Minister, New Zealand agreed to allow a meagre 75 Tuvaluans to relocate annually to their country, a migration that should stretch over 140 years. Australia refused to make any offers when approached similarly
  • Huge cost of adaptation: The capital cost of sea level rise in the Caribbean Community countries alone is estimated at $187 billion by 2080.
  • International Compensation Commission: Legal analysts are considering the possibility of an international compensation commission which could address the burden of adaptation expenses on the island nations through an international fund.
  • Decrease in emissions could delay the island nations from becoming uninhabitable: With the policies in force today, GHG emissions are projected to grow by 50% by 2050. Any amount of decrease in GHG emissions cannot save the islands from sinking, but a significant decrease in emissions could delay the island nations from becoming uninhabitable, thereby postponing the burden of accommodating mass migration
  • There is a need for a wide range of varied remedies, mostly adaptive, such as coastal protection, population consolidation, rainwater harvesting and storage, alternative methods of growing fruits and vegetables, human resource development and research and observation
What is needed?
An international forum to help small island nations threatened by rising sea levels
What would the forum do?
  • The primary focus of the forum so created must be to ensure adequate and appropriate remedies as discussed above
  • The forum must enable negotiations regarding the legal status of migrants and develop adaptive strategies in the destination country to guarantee and to protect dignity and cultural identity of the displaced in the destination country
  • The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992) obligates countries to provide finance to resist global warming
  • By extending such existing obligations through political pressure and diplomacy, the forum could ensure compensation to the island nations in the form of contributions from party countries by managing a fund created in this regard
  • Lastly, the forum would require a tribunal to assess the case presented by each island nation and to decide whether help from the international community is required
  • The tribunal could then invoke appropriate measures such as multilateral negotiations or directions that enable migration, compensation and other remedies that could save the people of the sinking small island nation

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