Greening the Islands Foundation

Our Global Island News Roundup: a summary of recent island news from the world.

Island nations, on the frontlines of climate change, are raising their voices in a desperate plea for action. Rising seas and extreme weather threaten their very existence – forcing some communities to confront unthinkable displacement. Meanwhile, the Loss and Damage fund meant to provide financial aid for irreversible climate impacts, remains stalled due to inaction from developed nations, leaving island communities struggling with mounting losses and a bleak future.

 

The rising threat of king and spring tides

Beyond the long-term threat of rising sea levels, islands like Tuvalu face the immediate danger of seasonal king tides and spring tides. These exceptionally high tides pose a significant threat to the well-being of island communities.

 

Tuvalu’s king tides, typically a twice-yearly event, took on a monstrous character on February 11th, 2024. This year’s surge wasn’t just the usual inundation of coastal fringes. It swallowed the island nation’s main road, a vital artery connecting communities and carrying essential services. The salty floodwaters cut off access and wreaked havoc on underground electricity cables, plunging homes and businesses into darkness for long hours. This disruption went beyond inconvenience; it underscored the terrifying reality that climate change is pushing familiar events into nightmarish territory.

 

The stark reality of climate displacement and migration

Rising sea levels, coastal erosion, and saltwater intrusion threaten the very existence of many island communities, forcing some to confront unthinkable displacement. As captured by Tuvalu’s Prime Minister, Kausea Natano, at COP26: “Even if all greenhouse gas emissions cease tomorrow, Tuvalu and other low-lying atoll nations are sinking.” This statement underscores the irreversible consequences faced by island nations and the need for immediate global action to address climate change and the reality of climate migration.

 

Planned international migration can offer solutions: environmental disasters are not accepted as a reason to seek asylum under international law. But this could change seeing how Australia is leading the way in offering a climate visa to Tuvaluans, recognising their rights and dignity as climate migrants.

 

While Australia’s recent climate visa offer represents a positive step, it highlights the urgent need to address the growing issue of climate-driven forced migration. According to a report by the World Bank, more than 140 million people could be displaced by climate change by 2050, with SIDS being among the most affected regions.

 

Climate aid gets another delay

The Loss and Damage fund – envisioned as a lifeline for island nations suffering irreversible climate impacts – remains inactive due to a lack of nominations from developed nations

 

Indeed, the agreement approved by UN member states at the start of COP28 entailed consensus that the UN’s climate change secretariat would convene the first meeting of the board of the L&D fund once all voting member nominations have been submitted, but no later than 31 January 2024. The January deadline has passed without developed countries nominating their delegates to sit on the board.

 

This means that the board, which is supposed to oversee the allocation of resources to help vulnerable islands and other developing states cope with the impacts of climate change – has not been able to hold its first meeting.

 

The L&D fund is a historic achievement; however, the delay in the board’s formation could jeopardise the fund’s effectiveness and credibility, as it reduces the time available for the board to establish its operational guidelines, governance structure, and fundraising strategy before the COP29 conference in November 2024.

 

Experts warn that the fund needs to be operational as soon as possible, as the climate crisis is already affecting the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in island communities. The United Nations estimated that Small Island Developing States (SIDS). have already lost $153 billion due to weather, climate, and water-related hazards over the past 50 years but the level of climate finance they have received is decreasing.

 

Despite these challenges, island communities are actively building resilience. Local initiatives champion sustainable practices, innovative solutions, and collaborative efforts to chart a path towards a sustainable and secure future. By focusing on supporting these endeavours, we can empower island nations to not only adapt to climate change but also thrive in the face of adversity.

Jacques Damhuis

Jacques Damhuis

On Key

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