This month, all roads lead to Bonn.
The German city on the banks of the Rhine is the venue for the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23). Playing host, however, is the small island state of Fiji. With good reason: climate change threatens to displace about 70 million people living in small island states.
Few need a reminder of how destructive climate change can be: think of this year’s hurricane season in the Caribbean. In Barbuda, for example, Hurricane Irma killed three people and wreaked havoc on the island, destroying 95 percent of its infrastructure – from hospital, schools and the island’s only airport to its water and telecom services. The estimated damage of $150 million is huge for an island of just 1,800 inhabitants.
This is why the COP23 will focus on how climate change could impact small island developing states. Many of the world’s 52 small island states are at imminent risk. Just recently, the inhabitants of one of the Marshall islands in the Pacific Ocean sought refuge in the United States as rising sea levels threaten their land.
Climate change refugees have become a reality.