LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - New Zealand on Wednesday made a pioneering international donation to a fund to help Fijian communities forced to move by rising seas and extreme weather driven by climate change.
The $2 million donation, part of a broader $150 million package of climate change assistance to Fiji, aims to support efforts already underway to resettle people at risk from sea level rise and other climate-related threats.
“The relocation of communities has already started in Fiji,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, announcing the donation in Suva, Fiji’s capital.
“Five communities have been moved to date and a further 42 have applied for government support to move,” she added.
The donation was the first international government contribution to Fiji’s Climate Relocation and Displaced Peoples Trust Fund, Ardern said.
Finding money to pay for rising “loss and damage” from climate change impacts - including forced migration or relocation - is expected to be a key issue at U.N. climate negotiations in Glasgow later this year.
Cosmin Corendea, an international lawyer who helped Fiji develop its relocation and displacement guidelines over the past two years, said the Pacific island nation was the first to develop sophisticated policies for moving climate-hit communities.
That groundwork was a key reason its trust fund was now beginning to attract donations, making it a model for other countries to follow, he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Growing climate change impacts are already displacing people, and some “really do need to relocate”, said Corendea of India’s Jindal Global Law School. He previously worked at the U.N. University’s Institute for Environment and Human Security.
New Zealand leader Ardern described Fiji as “on the frontline of the battle against climate change”.
“It’s important we support those who contributed the least to rising sea levels and extreme weather but who are experiencing it the most, to resettle their communities in safer places,” she said.
“This is a reality we have a collective responsibility to manage and support.”
Reporting by Laurie Goering @lauriegoering; editing by Megan Rowling. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit news.trust.org/climate