As sea levels continue to rise due to global warming, Tuvalu, a small archipelago in the Pacific, is seeing its territory disappear underwater, threatening the survival of its more than 11,000 inhabitants. A new treaty with Australia, however, will soon allow Tuvaluans to move to the largest country in Oceania, whose greenhouse gas emissions are partly responsible for the islanders’ plight.
Canberra announced on Friday that it is offering climate refuge to Tuvaluans, unveiling the terms of a pact that would enable citizens of the 26-square kilometre archipelago – the fourth smallest state in the world – to move to Australia to "live, study and work".
Located near the Equator, the island nation of Tuvalu is comprised of nine reef islands and atolls that rise an average of only two metres above sea level. Due to rising sea levels driven by climate change, the low-lying land is forecast to be submerged by Pacific waters by the end of the century.
The new pact between Australia and Tuvalu, signed by prime ministers Anthony Albanese and Kausea Natano, has been described as "groundbreaking " by University of New South Wales professor and refugee law expert Jane McAdam.
"It's the first agreement to specifically deal with climate-related mobility," McAdam said.
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