Back to Inquiry Set

10.10b.9 Kiribati Buys Land on Fiji

Leoni, Brigitte
2012 March 15
Text Excerpt

Brigitte Leoni, "Kiribati Buys Land on Fiji," "Migration Not a Matter of Choice but Survival, Says Kiribati President," March 15, 2012, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction,

This news article was written by a reporter for the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. She was reporting from Bangkok, Thailand, at a conference called the Second Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum. In the previous source you read about three possible solutions for Tuvalu, but Kiribati's government arranged another solution. What is it? This source reveals other actors that are interested in helping to solve the climate change / sea level rise problem for Kiribati, Tuvalu, and other small developing island nations. One is the United Nations, through its department, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, which employs experts to study the problem, sponsors conferences (such as the Second Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum, where regional leaders and experts can meet and discuss solutions), and maintains a website to publicize their efforts. The UN is also a sponsor of the Paris Agreement of 2015, which aims to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Another actor is the Asian Development Bank, which grants loans to nations to help them develop. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that work internationally to solve specific problems or promote certain perspectives have become very important in the post–Cold War world.

Kiribati's purchase of land in Fiji is another possible solution to Tuvalu's dilemma. Kiribati has phosphate mines, which give it the income to make the purchase. Tuvalu does not. Students should understand the role of the UN and NGOs in giving the leaders of small nations an international platform to publicize their concerns, network with leaders of other nations, and seek loans and expertise. However, there are serious limitations on their capacity. The UN is often mired in political division and lacks funds and the authority to carry out solutions.

Following a recent decision by its Cabinet to buy land in Fiji as 'climate change insurance' for its population, Kiribati President, Anote Tong, has called on the international community to address the effects of climate change that could wipe out the entire Pacific archipelago.

While the governments of both the Pacific island nations are currently in talks about the nearly 6,000 acres of fertile land on Fiji's main island, Viti Levu, which is being offered by a church group for $9.6 million, President Tong hopes that it will never be necessary for the 103,000 people of Kiribati to leave.

The move comes three years after President Tong took centre stage at the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction to implore the international community to take effective action against climate change before it became too late for Kiribati and other small island developing states of the Pacific.

This week he told the media: "We would hope not to put everyone on one piece of land, but if it became absolutely necessary, yes, we could do it. It wouldn't be for me, personally, but would apply more to a younger generation. For them, moving won't be a matter of choice. It's basically going to be a matter of survival." ...

Kiribati is at the heart of the debate on climate change. Many of its atolls rise just 2.0 metres above sea level. It is comprised of 33 tiny islands scattered across the ocean with more than half its population crowded onto one island — South Tarawa, the capital.

This recent development in Kiribati comes on the heels of a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) report released last week, which states that low-lying Pacific islands will be extremely vulnerable to sea-level rise, high intensity cyclones, and storm surges.

The report, Addressing Climate Change and Migration in Asia and the Pacific, highlights that with warmer seas, more intense cyclones could become a pattern. It further predicts widespread coastal inundation for Kiribati's main island.

Released at the Second Asia-Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum in Bangkok, the report identifies Kiribati, Tuvalu, and Papua New Guinea as Pacific migration hotspots due to climate change.