The archipelago nation of Vanuatu is located in the Melanesian region of the South Pacific Ocean between 12° and 23° north latitude and 166° and 173° east longitude, covering an expanse of approximately 1,300 kilometers (km). Eighty islands, covering a total land area of 12,233 square kilometers (km2) and an exclusive economic zone of 680,000 km2 comprise the country. The largest of the islands, Espiritu Santo and Malekula cover 50% of the country’s land mass and harbor the majority of Vanuatu’s population. The country’s economy is primarily based on small-scale agriculture, which provides a livelihood for two thirds of the population, while fishing, offshore financial services and tourism support the economy.
The isolated location, small land area separated by vast oceans, and the attendant challenges and costs of providing basic services make Vanuatu, like all Small Island Developing States (SIDS), extremely vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change. While climate change is an important source of risk to the future of Vanuatu, the country’s ability to respond to these changes is hampered by its highly vulnerable socio-economic and ecological situation. Vanuatu is considered one of the poorest of the Pacific and has been classified a Least Developed Country , with per capita GDP of US$1,276. Whilst these are important indicators, they represent only one measure of vulnerability, which measures the ability to respond to changing climate risks, and in the case of Vanuatu, an extensive social network and traditional practices mitigate in some cases, the country’s economic vulnerability.
According to the World Bank , in 2008, the total population of Vanuatu numbered 234,000, of which approximately 25% lived in urban areas in and around the capital Port Vila, and Luganville. The remaining 75% of rural Ni-Vanuatu are subsistence farmers and fishermen, who make limited contributions to the country’s GDP, and whose ability to meet their basic needs in light of a changing climate is being increasingly challenged .
Selected Indicators for Impacts and Vulnerabilities