Climate refugees require relocation assistance: Guaranteeing adequate land assets through treaties based on the national adaptation programmes of action

Rising ocean levels in the South Pacific threaten thousands of inhabitants with displacement. Many of these small Pacific island states lack available land to internally accommodate displaced individuals. Thus, thousands of “climate refugees” will be forced to move off their island homes and, without provisions of adequate land rights, will most likely end up in refugee camps in other countries. Climate change exemplifies an inherently global challenge. Developed countries produce disproportionately more greenhouse gases, and developing countries lack resources to adequately respond to climatic displacement. International treaties establish a legal responsibility to assist developing states adapt to climate change. However, these treaties inadequately provide support to vulnerable Pacific states like Kiribati, a low-lying South Pacific island nation. The Kiribati-United States Friendship Treaty, the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme Agreement, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change all suggest legal responsibilities for the United States and other developed states to assist Kiribati’s climate adaptation efforts, but each treaty regime ultimately fails to elicit international response because the terms are vague and lack enforcement mechanisms. A future treaty regime based on the National Adaptation Programmes of Action must establish a system to respond to climatic displacement by creating adequate land rights provisions.

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