5 Nov 2018

Learning That There Is No ‘Edge of the World’: The Pacific Islands, Climate Change and our Common Concern

Aylin Yildiz, doctoral candidate as a part of the CLI_M_CO2 project at the WTI, spent three months in Fiji and Samoa to investigate climate-induced migration.

How can a 24-year old beauty pageant winner end up at the international conference on climate change to advocate for the future of our environment? Aylin Yildiz, doctoral candidate as a part of the CLI_M_CO2 project at the WTI, asked this very question to Anne Dunn, Miss Pacific Islands 2016. Anne is originally from the province of Namosi in Fiji. Part of her ancestral land is currently underwater due to sea level rise caused by anthropogenic climate change. She shared her passionate story, her performance at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP23) and her views on climate change induced migration during an interview with Aylin. Her real-life story can be found in the short documentary (link below) prepared as a part of the "Pacific Voices in Unison" project, in which six youths from different Pacific Island countries share the effects of climate change on their homes and daily lives.

The CLI_M_CO2 project at the WTI, which is led by Prof. Elisa Fornalé, investigates environmental degradation, human mobility and human development under the doctrine of common concern. The project adopts the Pacific Islands as a case study. Aylin was in Fiji and Samoa for three months to undertake in-depth interviews with many actors, from international and regional organisations and local associations, to affected people, on climate change and migration.

During her fieldwork, Aylin also presented at the 4th International Conference on Sustainable Alternatives for Poverty Reduction and Ecological Justice, which was held in 26-29 June 2018 at the University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji. Her presentation was titled “A legal challenge for ecological justice: what is our common normative framework?” and elaborated on the theories of justice, principles of international environmental law and how these are reflected in the narratives of climate change induced migration.

Approaching the problem from the lens of the doctrine of common concern of humankind, the overall objective of the CLI_M_CO2 project is to stress that anthropogenic climate change is affecting all of us, regardless of our historical contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. With no space left immune from the impacts of climate change, “the edge of the world” perhaps no longer exists.