Tuvalu S. Pacific - Deal to resettle climate-hit Tuvalu residents shows world ‘what’s at stake’, European officials say
German and EU officials say the treaty between Australia and the Pacific island country should spur global cut to emissions
Australia’s residency offer to citizens from the low-lying Pacific country of Tuvalu must spur the world to dramatically cut emissions, two senior European officials have declared.
Germany’s climate envoy, Jennifer Morgan, said the deal “puts a very clear pointer on what’s at stake” as the negotiators prepare for next month’s UN climate summit, adding that “all countries have to scale up their ambition for 2030”.
The message was echoed by a senior European Union official, Koen Doens, who said the climate crisis was putting Pacific island countries under increasing stress and more urgent action was “absolutely essential”.
The comments follow the Australian government’s announcement that it would offer up to 280 people from Tuvalu access to residency, work and study rights each year, as part of a new treaty that also binds the two countries closely together on security.
The deal is driven by recognition that Tuvalu – a country of nine low-lying islands about halfway between Australia and Hawaii – is particularly vulnerable to rising sea levels.
But Australia has also promised to fund coastal adaptation projects – including land reclamation work around the capital, Funafuti – to help as many as possible of Tuvalu’s 11,200 citizens “stay in their homes with safety and dignity”.
Speaking to the Guardian on the sidelines of a Pacific summit in Cook Islands, where the deal was announced, Morgan said the news was “attracting attention” in Germany.
“What I’ve heard back from friends – not climate people – in Germany is that they’re very sad about the fact that a country like Tuvalu has to be thinking about where their people may have to go,” Morgan said.
She called for “even more focus on driving down emissions to avoid that, so that people can stay in their homes”.
Morgan said the world must not abandon the goal of limiting global heating to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels, saying this was “a matter of life and death for many people here in this region”.
Doens, the European Commission’s director general for international partnerships, said the Australia-Tuvalu treaty was “a very impactful agreement”.
“We all know what is happening to some of the islands in the Pacific. We know what is happening to Tuvalu,” he told the Guardian.
“The stress on the people living on the islands is increasing.”