Tuvalu said on Thursday (Nov. 17) that it wants to build a digital version of itself that will copy its islands and landmarks and keep its history and culture alive. Rising sea levels threaten to drown the small Pacific island nation, which comprises only a few islands.
Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister Simon Kofe said earlier this week at the COP27 climate summit that it was time to look for other ways for his country to stay alive. One of these was for Tuvalu to become the first digitised nation in the metaverse, an online realm that uses augmented and virtual reality (VR) to help people interact.
Kofe, who drew international attention at last year’s COP26 by addressing the conference while standing knee-deep in the sea, told Reuters that his video address from the digital duplicate of the islet Te Afualiku had gone viral and that viewers had mixed reactions.
You’re surprised, but you’re also excited about this new technology we’re looking into,” Kofe said.
Tuvalu will be the first country to make a copy of itself in the metaverse. However, the city of Seoul and the island nation of Barbados said last year that they would join the metaverse to provide administrative and consular services, respectively.
Tuvalu, which consists of a cluster of nine islands with a population of 12,000 people and is located halfway between Australia and Hawaii, has been a cause celebre for the dangers posed by climate change and increasing sea levels for a very long time.
At high tide, up to 40% of the capital district is underwater. By the end of the century, the whole country is expected to be submerged.
Kofe said that he hoped making a digital nation would help Tuvalu keep running as a country even if it was completely submerged.
“We need to think outside the box and be the first to accomplish some of these things,” he said, “as you might expect from a country that is leading the way on climate change he said
This is important because the government is starting to work to make sure that Tuvalu is still recognised as a state internationally and that its maritime boundaries and the resources in those waters are kept even if the islands sink.
Seven states have committed to continuous recognition, according to Kofe, but there will be issues if Tuvalu fails because it is a new area of international law.