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August 21, 2017 | by  | in News |
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Inquiry Reveals Climate Change Threatens Millions

A national Australian inquiry into the impacts of climate change has highlighted major challenges for New Zealand.

By 2050, the effects of climate change are expected to displace 200 million people. Many of these effects are expected to be at their worst in South Asia and the Pacific, as rising sea levels flood low-lying areas.

Sea levels are projected to rise by at least 30 centimetres by 2050, and as much as six metres by 2200.

The former head of the Australian Defence Force, Chris Barrie, made submissions to the inquiry. He stated that, as a result of climate change, “several tens of millions of people might seek better fortunes in Australia and possibly New Zealand.”

VUW lecturer Ayca Arkilic warns that existing infrastructure in New Zealand may be inadequate to provide for an influx of displaced peoples in a short period of time, with a projection of 670,000 to 1.7 million people from the Pacific to be displaced by 2050. Issues may arise concerning New Zealand’s responsibilities to climate refugees, who are not currently provided for in international law or New Zealand’s domestic law.

VUW academic Harriet Farquhar has proposed steps to mitigate the impacts of climate change on displaced peoples. She has suggested that the expansion of the Pacific Access Category Residency programme, which is currently limited to 1750 people annually, would gradually increase migration from the Pacific, subsequently reducing the numbers of people who would be facing immediate resettlement in the future.

In addition to adjusting of migration policies, a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is expected to reduce or slow the impacts of climate change. “New Zealand is committed to playing its part in the global climate change response,” said Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett in a press conference on June 1.

New Zealand ratified the Paris Climate Agreement in October 2016, under which the government has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent below the levels they were at in 2005 by 2030.

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