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Australia has declared its intention to grant special rights for the citizens of Tuvalu, a Pacific archipelago severely threatened by rising sea levels. The announcement was made through a treaty disclosed by both countries on November 10. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Tuvalu’s counterpart, Kausea Natano, expressed the belief that Tuvaluans should have the option to live, study, and work elsewhere as climate change intensifies.
The treaty not only outlines the special rights for Tuvaluans but also includes provisions related to defence, with Australia committing to assisting Tuvalu in the event of invasion or natural disasters. The agreement allows Tuvaluans to access Australian services.
Tuvalu, with its 11,000 inhabitants, is among the nations most at risk due to climate change and rising sea levels. Two of its nine atolls have already been significantly submerged, and experts predict that the entire archipelago will be uninhabitable within eighty years.
The revealed treaty aims to enable Tuvaluans to maintain their deep ancestral ties to their land and sea, acknowledging, however, that the response has been delayed. Australia’s reliance on coal and gas exports, as sources of pollution, has been a point of contention with its Pacific neighbours, who bear the brunt of climate change consequences.
Viewed as a strategic victory for Canberra, the treaty signifies Australia’s effort to extend its influence in the region, especially in light of China’s increasing presence. While other Pacific nations like Kiribati and the Solomon Islands have turned to Beijing in recent years, Tuvalu continues to diplomatically recognize Taiwan.
Natano declared that he sees the treaty as a hopeful and significant step forward for regional stability. However, the agreement requires ratification from both countries to take effect.
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