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Climate change: US to pay $75m to relocate tribes facing flood threat

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Image source, The Washington Post via Getty Images

US President Joe Biden’s administration will help fund the move of three tribal communities facing urgent threats from climate change.

The three tribes will receive $75m (£62m) divided equally between them, Mr Biden announced on Wednesday.

All are located along coastal areas and rivers in the states of Alaska and Washington.

The money will fund the move of key buildings and residential homes to higher ground, away from rising waters.

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Mr Biden made the funding announcement at the White House during the Interior Department’s Tribal Nations Summit.

In his remarks, he said the tribes receiving funding are “at risk of being washed away”.

The money will help “move, in some cases, their entire communities back to safer ground”.

Those receiving the funding are Newtok Village and the Native Village of Napakiak in southwest Alaska, and the Quinault Indian Nation, located on Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula.

All three communities have either suffered land erosion or are at a growing risk of flooding.

The Quinault nation said it will use the money to build a community centre, which will also serve as an emergency evacuation centre in case of natural disasters. The funds will help cover a quarter of the overall relocation project, they said.

In a press release, US Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said: “Indigenous communities are facing unique and intensifying climate-related challenges that pose an existential threat to Tribal economies, infrastructure, lives and livelihoods.”

Eight more tribes will also receive at least $5m each to plan for relocation. In total, the US Interior Department will spend $135m to relocate the communities, which also include some communities in the states of Maine, Louisiana and Arizona.

The financial support is a move by the US government to help communities adapt to climate change by allowing them to relocate to safer ground, rather than paying for rebuilding efforts in case of damage suffered by climate change.

A similar relocation fund of $48m – the first of its kind in the US – was given out by the Obama administration in 2016 to the coastal village of Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana, which lost the majority of its land to the Gulf of Mexico.

Residents, however, only began the relocation process this year after some disagreement on where they should move.

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