Kiribati looks to artificial islands to save nation from rising sea levels
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.
The country’s outgoing President Anote Tong has told the ABC’s Pacific Beat program that despite global commitments on reducing carbon emissions, “the science continues to indicate that we will continue to go under water within the century”.
“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 man-made 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.
“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 $US12 billion ($16.5 billion), and Mr Tong estimated raising Kiribati could cost as much as $US100 million ($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.
New 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.
‘A message that needs to be repeated’
Mr 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 in the COP21 climate talks.
“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. “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.”
Reposted from ABC News Australia, February 17, 2016