Climate change is causing seas to rise by melting land ice and heating up water, causing it to expand. So in a sense, Tuvalu isn’t sinking, it’s being swallowed by oceans at an accelerating rate. The nation and other small islands have been the moral center of climate talks for years. Thanks to their advocacy, we’re talking about the 1.5-degree-Celsius (2.7-degree-Fahrenheit) goal. That’s because failing to reduce emissions in line with that target will unleash unstoppable sea level rise that will make many atolls uninhabitable within decades. The world reaching net zero emissions by 2050 is crucial for staying within that temperature boundary.
Beyond staying within that guardrail, Kofe’s demands also include accounting for loss and damage. In essence, it’s a request by developing countries who have very little role in causing the climate crisis for money from developed nations that have driven it and profited handsomely. It’s a contentious issue because money is always like that. But small nations view it as a moral imperative given the havoc they face.
Tuvalu and other nations such as Kiritbati have explored buying land in other countries should seas consume their islands. But as Kofe noted, they’re also looking to maintain economic rights to the sea that surrounds them and working on creating a digital nation that would be a sort of online diaspora. Kofe noted that the nation is doing its part to protect its citizens and world. But the bigger emitters need to show up and do the same.
“In Tuvalu, we are living the realities of climate change. … We cannot wait around for speeches when the sea is rising around us all,” he said.