10 Dec 2009

Kiribati elaborates on plans for merit based relocation in wake of climate change

9:03 pm on 10 December 2009

Kiribati has told the United Nations climate change conference its making plans to relocate its people because rising sea levels will make it uninhabitable within this century.

As Tuvalu's proposal for a legally binding agreement with stronger measures to fight climate change brought negotiations to a halt overnight, Kiribati staged a side summit in Copenhagen to highlight its plight.

The country's foreign secretary and climate change spokesperson, Tessie Lambourne says Kiribati already has the highest infant mortality rate in the Pacific because the sea is contaminating freshwater, causing illnesses such as diarrhoea.

She says current predictions of rising sea levels will make it impossible to continue to live there, and Kiribati is developing relocation plans

"Not just a mass migration of our people as environmental refugees but a merit based relocation strategy that involves the upskilling of our people to international labour standards so they can compete in the international labour market and fill gaps in countries who have those gaps."

Tessie Lambourne says a nursing programme it has with Australia could be a model for relocation.