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The Australia-Tuvalu Falepili Union Treaty: Security in the face of climate change … and China?

On 9 November 2023, Australia and the Tuvalu signed the world’s first climate resettlement treaty. Tuvalu is a Pacific Island State of only 26 square kilometres in area, with over half its population living on the atoll of Funafuti. It has a mean elevation of less than 2 metres above sea level and is profoundly threatened by climate change. The Australia-Tuvalu Falepili Union Treaty provides for a ‘human mobility’ pathway ‘which shall enable citizens of Tuvalu to: (a) live, study and work in Australia; (b) access Australian education, health, and key income and family support on arrival’ (Article 3). Political reporting suggests that while all 11,200 citizens of Tuvalu would be eligible for resettlement, a quota of 280 a year will be allowed to migrate ‘to avoid a brain drain of skilled workers’. Nonetheless, half the landmass of Funafuti could be underwater at high tide by 2050. Also of potentially profound significance in terms of State practice, Article 2(b) acknowledges ‘the statehood and sovereignty of Tuvalu will continue, and the…

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