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New Zealand has become the first nation to contribute to a fund aimed at helping Fijian communities relocate after being displaced by intense weather conditions.

The NZ $2 million (USD $1.25 million) injection into Fiji's Climate Relocation and Displaced Peoples Trust Fund was revealed by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during her tour of Fiji Thursday and will be taken from New Zealand’s overall $67 million fund dedicated to climate change in the Pacific. 

Addressing students at the University of the South Pacific, Ardern said relocating climate-affected communities “is a reality [the world] has a collective responsibility to manage and support."

"The relocation of communities has already started in Fiji," she said, according to Radio New Zealand. "Five communities have been moved to date, and a further 42 have applied for government support to move. 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.”

Fiji, home to 300 islands and just under 1 million people, is one of the world’s smallest emitters of carbon emissions.

Despite their minuscule contribution to the problem, the Pacific nation is forced to deal with some of the most extreme consequences of global warming, including rising sea levels, cyclones, floods, and coastal erosion. 

The county’s many low-lying coastal communities are particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise, which has increased by 6 millimeters every year in Fiji since 1993 — considerably higher than the global average.

Vunidogoloa and Denimanu, villages in northern Fiji, were the first two communities to be relocated. 

Annah Piggott-McKellarand Karen McNamara from the University of Queensland and Patrick Nunn from the University of the Sunshine Coast visited the two villages in 2017. They explained that the success of relocating the communities took much more than “simply rebuilding houses in a safer location.”

"It involves providing the right conditions for people to rebuild the lives they knew, such as equitable access to resources and services, social capital, and community infrastructure,” they wrote in a piece for the Conversation. “They were provided solar power, rainwater tanks, and household facilities that weren’t available in the original villages. Vunidogoloa also received pineapple plants, cattle, and fish ponds, which have helped reestablish their livelihoods.”

Other Pacific Island Nations like Kiribati, Nauru, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Timor Leste, and Tonga are also expected to be massively impacted by the effects of global warming over the coming decades. 

According to the London School of Economics, around 20% of the region’s 10 million population could be displaced by 2050.


Defend the Planet

New Zealand Pledges Millions to Help Relocate Fijian Communities Displaced by Climate Change

By Madeleine Keck