BARCELONA — Like many other small island nations, Kiribati has one of the lowest carbon-emission footprints in the world. But, with the highest points of these 33 low-lying atolls rising to just a few meters above sea level, the country is also one of the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
In this Turning the Tide audio episode, Devex talks with Suzanne Stanley, CEO at the Jamaica Environment Trust, on the impact of climate change on Jamaica and why education is key to combatting it.
“We are seeing a rapid escalation of what is coming,” Anote Tong, Kiribati’s former president 2003-2016, told Devex in an interview at COP 25 in Madrid. During his 13-year presidency, Tong developed the country’s climate change adaptation strategy and has since dedicated himself to raising awareness globally about the threats posed by climate change.
“The IPCC reports say even if we as a global community are able to achieve a reduction in emissions to zero, our islands will continue to be submerged by the rising tides,” Tong said.
Faced with the prospect of his country disappearing into the sea, Tong’s solution was to prepare for the eventual relocation of the population of Kiribati, home to roughly 115,000 people — a solution he calls “migration with dignity.” This led to Kiribati purchasing 5,500 acres of land on Fiji in 2014.
A change of government in Kiribati rolled back Tong’s “migration with dignity” approach, the former president said. But he continues to be active in the global arena, advocating for the need for larger, more polluting countries to take action to limit global emissions.
“It’s about inclusion, it’s about not thinking about yourself … the simple message is, we’re all in this together, and we must try and address it collectively,” he explained.
In the second episode of the Turning the Tide: Climate Champions podcast, Devex spoke to Tong about the sensitivities surrounding climate-change induced migration and the need for the global community to cooperate on solutions to the challenges posed by climate change.
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