Case Study of the South Pacific Region

    The Pacific Island Countries have long been declaring climate change as an existential threat, and articulating a warming of 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels as a threshold for survival. Their vulnerability stems from a combination of factors, including their geographical location, developmental challenges and exposure to sea-level rise as well as intensified weather-related disasters.

    The region consists of 14 independent States, stretching over a large ocean area almost the size of the African continent. Although harbouring a population of about 10 million, the Pacific Island Countries have been influential promoters of climate change action. They have been forming negotiation blocs, such as AOSIS and the PSIDS, to push for higher commitments during international conferences, and taking exemplary domestic action. For instance, Fiji is the first country to ratify the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands is the first country to submit a second Nationally Determined Contribution to the UNFCCC Secretariat.

    Our project studies the South Pacific region, with the aim to construct environmental migration as a common concern of humankind and adopt the environmental migration governance framework to inquire the laws and policies of the South Pacific region.

    To support our analysis, we conducted fieldwork research in Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, Kiribati and New Zealand. We held in-depth interviews with experts who, due to their membership to an organisation or institution which has “real and substantive expertise”, were competent to inform us about our research areas. The results of our fieldwork research complement our desk review and provide us with the legal and political context where current and emerging legal principles will be applicable.

    On-line Geo-archive

    The geo-archive is an open-access online database containing historical cases of interactions between migration and environmental/climatic changes. It encompasses the description of the case, policy responses to migration, and in some cases loss and damage, together with reflections of the case in literary/audiovisual productions. The tool is mainly designed for teaching and outreach purposes as well as for providing locally grounded examples for local authorities and climate/migration policy stakeholders.

    The main objectives of the geo-archive are:

    • to denaturalize environmental risks and question the alleged automatism between environmental changes and societal responses;
    • to offer a geo-archive of historical cases of climate/environmental changes and migration comprising both best and worst policy practices;
    • to draw attention to specific devices that were employed to raise public awareness and inspire solidarity when facing migration crises.
    The CLI_M_CO2 Project is funded under the grant No. PP00P1163700 by the Swiss National Foundation Research.
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