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Residents of Welsh coastal village could become Britain’s first climate refugees

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The villagers of Fairbourne, northern Wales, could become Britain’s first climate refugees.

The rising tide is threatening the coastal village and an official report has called for Fairbourne to be “decommissioned” in 2045, with the process to be completed by 2055.

The council argues it will not be able to foot the bill to keep the village and its infrastructure protected from flooding.

Catrin Wager, a local councillor, told the Associated Press that by 2055 it will become “both economically unviable and with an increased risk to life to maintain the defences within Fairbourne. So, that’s why the report recommends decommissioning starts from about 2045.”

“At the moment there is no legislation or framework we can’t tell people to move. It’s up to residents whether they decide to stay there,” she added.

For villagers, though, the decision to decommission, which would mean moving the entire village away from the coastline, is a difficult one to understand.

“We feel uncomfortable being called the first climate refugee village. What we want is answers now. We want to know if the seawall breaches before 2045, we want to know what’s going to happen to us. Where Gwynedd Council and the Welsh government and Westminster are going to put us?” Angela Thomason, a Fairbourne resident and community council clerk, said.

Stuart Eves, the owner of a local camping and caravan site, also has difficulties recognising the looming threat.

“You walk down to the beach and you look at the sea and it still comes up to the stones like it used to. You can’t see a millimetre, two millimetres rise in the sea level a year,” he said, calling on the local council to “come and show us your figures that you’re using to say the sea level is going to rise that quick” before 2045.

But the report’s release and the village being declared a high-risk flood area has already had an impact on the village. House prices have plummeted around 40%, according to Stuart Eves.

“It became virtually impossible to get a mortgage. So the young people in the village, if they haven’t got the cash to be able to buy a property, they couldn’t buy one in where they want to live,” he said.

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