President Obama has announced a plan to provide 40 million in aid for island nations threatened by rising sea levels and climate change. Obama announced the plan while speaking from the remote Midway Atoll coral reef on September 1st. It will include programs to help these nations respond to climate change, as well as programs to help relocate people when rising sea levels make this a necessity, with the stated intention to “promote resilience, enhance access to climate finance, and improve national capacity to manage and monitor adaptation programs.” The announcement came before Obama visited China to attend the G20 summit, to formalize last year’s Paris climate agreements. According to one White House official, the new program “shows the administration’s ongoing commitment to not only working with the large emitters ― the world’s largest, in the case of China ― but also importance of working with some of the smallest and most vulnerable in the world.”

The new programs include 9 million dollars of aid for governments to craft policies which “promote resilience, enhance access to climate finance, and improve national capacity to manage and monitor adaptation programs.” That program includes Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Tonga, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Palau, Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, and Nauru. The plan also includes 5 million to regional organizations, through the Institutional Strengthening in Pacific Island Countries to Adapt to Climate Change (ISACC) program, as well as 15 million towards disaster risk reduction initiatives in the Pacific region.

In December 2016, Hawaii will also host a “Symposium on Climate Displacement, Migration, and Relocation”, co-hosted by The White House’s Council on Environmental Quality. That symposium will include discussion of these issues in the US, where towns in coastal Louisiana and Alaskan native villages have already been forced to look towards relocation, faced with rising sea levels and coastal erosion.

The White House official emphasized that these plans mark a willingness to focus on confronting the practical challenges of rising sea levels, in addition to reducing emissions. The official noted the inevitability of these climate change effects, pointing out that “I think the goal that we set out last year in Paris to attempt to limit climate change to well less than 2 degrees in terms of temperatures rises ― even in that world there will be major relocations and dislocations.”

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