Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister gives COP26 address while standing in the ocean

Tuvalu’s foreign minister has given a speech while standing knee-deep in water to show how his nation is on the front line of climate change.

Simon Kofe gave the speech, which was played at the COP26 conference in Glasgow on Tuesday, standing in a suit and tie behind a lectern set up in the sea.

The location was chosen as a statement on climate change and to try draw attention to Tuvalu’s struggle with the effect of rising sea levels on the small island state in the South Pacific.

Image: Reuters

“Tuvalu is sinking,” Kofe said of his country where around 40 per cent of the capital, Funafuti, is already lower than sea level at high tide.

This combined with the quickly rising sea level has placed Tuvalu’s population under a huge threat.

“The statement juxtaposes the COP26 setting with the real-life situations faced in Tuvalu due to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise and highlights the bold action Tuvalu is taking to address the very pressing issues of human mobility under climate change,” Kofe said of his video message to the conference.

Tuvalu, which is about 4,000km southwest of Hawaii, is made up of nine islands with a population of around 12,000.

Timeless Tuvalu, its tourism website, warns that by the end of the century the whole country could be underwater.

Schools in Tuvalu are teaching students about the effects of climate change and they “could be the last generation of children to grow up in Tuvalu,” according to the website, also adding that many citizens have already moved or emigrated to New Zealand.

According to the World Bank, the sea levels in the western Pacific Ocean have risen at two to three times faster than the global average and they’re forecast to continue to rise between 0.5m and 1.1 meters by the end of the century.