Timely research on international law for climate change relocation

Associate Professor Alberto Costi and Research Fellow (and PhD candidate) Nathan Ross, from the Faculty of Law.

Alberto Costi and Nathan Ross in Samoa
Associate Professor Alberto Costi, Research Fellow Nathan Ross and Secretary-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP),  Mr Kosi Latu.

Associate Professor Alberto Costi and Research Fellow (and PhD candidate) Nathan Ross, from the Faculty of Law, visited Samoa recently to further their research and discuss the legal implications of climate change for Pacific Island nations under threat.

Their research involves two projects funded respectively by Victoria’s University Research Fund and the New Zealand Law Foundation. They examine the future legal status under international law of low-lying atoll nations whose territories are threatened by climate change, and how international law can support the relocation of people from Pacific Island States to other territories not threatened by the rising sea level.

“We are looking at ways to prevent fragmenting the populations and instead, maintain national identity, language and culture, and protect existing rights,” Associate Professor Costi says.

“The Law Foundation-funded project is also looking into the policy implications for New Zealand if it partners with any of these States on possible relocation options.”

After exploring issues pertaining to their research with the Director-General and other officials at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), they discussed the issues relating to the legal status of low-lying States during a seminar at the Tokelau Liaison Office in Apia.

A related article, Legal eagles look at international law options for climate change relocation, appeared in the April 2016 Bulletin of the Office of the Council for the Ongoing Government of Tokelau (OCOG).

The trip included the pair presenting a seminar, Climate Change, Low Lying States and International Law, at the National University of Samoa’s Faculty of Science. They also met with Samoa’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, to discuss Samoa's potential role in assisting its South Pacific neighbours in this climate change future.