Kiribati wants artificial islands to save it from rising seas

Kiribati wants artificial islands to save it from rising seas

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Kiribati has turned to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to help build artificial islands in an effort to save the low-lying Pacific nation from rising sea levels that will result from climate change.

The country’s outgoing President Anote Tong has told ABC News that despite global commitments on reducing carbon emissions, “the science continues to indicate that we will continue to go under water within the century”.

Kiribati-President-Anote-Tong“So we really have to look at adaptation strategies beyond mitigation, and we will have to build islands,” he said.

The UAE is home to the world’s biggest artificial island, called Palm Jumeirah, and has at least two more currently being built.

“We recently received a technical team from UAE headed by Dutch engineers with the sole objective of providing Kiribati with technical and credible solutions to our predicament,” Mr Tong told the Pacific Climate Change Conference in Wellington.

UAE-Palm-Jumeirah-Dubai-world-biggest-artificial-island“Indeed there is a light at the end of the tunnel. What might have been viewed as something unachievable and impossible may now become the solution not only for Kiribati but all other low-lying atoll islands.”

Palm Jumeirah alone cost the Emirati government an estimated $16.5 billion, and Mr Tong estimated raising Kiribati could cost as much as $140 million.

“However, if we are really serious about ensuring a secure and safe future for our people, giving up has never been an option,” he said.

Kiribati-low-lying-islands-Pacific-OceanNew Zealand businessman and speaker at the Wellington conference Rod Oram said building the islands would “need a very concerted international support, because it would be a phenomenally expensive thing to do”.

“It would be important to bear in mind that it would only be a stop-gap measure that might help Kiribati for another generation or two,” he said.

The majority of Kiribati’s 33 coral atolls are less than six metres above sea level.

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s National Tidal Centre has reported an average sea level rise of 7.3 millimetres a year for Kiribati since 1992, and the Kiribati government has said the rise has already forced some villagers to abandon their homes.

UN-COP21-logo-Paris-summitMr Tong, who has held office since 2003, will be replaced in presidential elections in March.

His three terms have been defined by his climate change advocacy and he was an active voice last December’s United Nations sponsored climate summit in Paris.

“I was extremely thrilled by what happened in Paris, it’s a long way from what happened in Copenhagen, but at the same time the job is not yet done,” he said.

Kiribati-aerial“So we must continue to maintain that pressure.”

Fiji recently became the first nation in the world to ratify the COP21 agreement, a document that Mr Tong said would soon be ratified by Kiribati.

Mr Tong added he would continue to advocate for climate action after his presidency.

“It’s a message that needs to be repeated, because not everybody is listening,” he said. “I suspect I will continue to be involved.

1 COMMENT

  1. KIrabati and the other atoll nations certainly face a dire future due the global warming and the consequent sea level rise. But, in the shorter term, they face the greater problem of resource shortages, specifically fresh water, fisheries and agriculture. All of the aspects of this crisis are being exacerbated by rampant population growth. There are probably no places on Earth where the concept of limits is so clearly at play. Some of the affected countries are starting to face this reality. Reproductive health needs to be front and centre of the political process in all these threatened countries, since they can’t just rely on pushing their excess people off to other countries and drawing in repatriated funds from the diaspora.

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