Tuvalu minister gives COP26 statement in seawater to highlight rising sea levels from climate change

In a suit and tie, knee-deep in seawater.

Jean Chien Tay | November 08, 2021, 03:10 PM

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In a suit and tie, and knee-deep in seawater, Tuvalu's Minister for Justice, Communication and Foreign Affairs, Simon Kofe, delivered his video statement to the COP26 climate conference.

Image via Ministry of Justice, Communication and Foreign Affairs/Facebook.

Although the politician can be seen with a wide grin in photos shared by his ministry, the issue that he touched upon appears far from cheerful.

Image via Ministry of Justice, Communication and Foreign Affairs/Facebook.

According to the ministry's statement, Kofe's statement "juxtaposes" the COP26 setting with "real-life situations", such as the one faced by the Pacific island nation due to climate change and rising sea levels.

His recorded statement will be shown at the Pacific Climate Change Mobility and Human Security Side Event at COP26.

The tiny island nation of Tuvalu with a population of 11,792 has long been grappling with the impact of climate issues.

Tuvalu's Finance Minister Seve Paeniu recently told Reuters that "islands are disappearing - we (Tuvalu) are literally sinking".

Went viral on Twitter

Kofe's creative way of delivering his COP26 address went viral on Twitter, after a journalist from a fellow Pacific nation -- Fiji -- tweeted about it.

At the time of writing, the tweet has been "retweeted" over 6,600 times, with over 31,500 "likes".

Many commenters applauded the politician for his efforts to shed light on issues brought about by climate change and rising sea levels.

Meanwhile, the International Coral Reef Initiative appeared to liken Kofe's speech in the sea to the Maldives government's underwater cabinet meeting in 2009.

According to the Associated Press, the Maldives cabinet held a meeting underwater in scuba gear to show the danger of rising sea levels.

Studies show "hundreds" of Pacific islands grew in size

However, some netizens appeared to be sceptical of the ministry's statement, and cited reports from 2018 that show Tuvalu had in fact grown in size.

In January, ABC News reported on studies that found "hundreds" of islands in the Pacific growing in terms of land size, despite the threat of climate change and rising sea levels.

The Dean of Science at Simon Fraser University, Paul Kench, reportedly attributed the land growth to the healthy coral reefs in the region, which produce sediment that increased the size of the islands.

Kench said that a "majority" of islands in the region has either increased or stayed "very similar" in size, while about 10 per cent of islands captured in the study have shrank.

However, climate change also has a detrimental effect on coral reefs. According to a United Nations report, "Most scientists believe that the rate of change of climatic conditions is potentially beyond the capacity of coral reefs to adapt and recover."

Only representatives from three Pacific island nations present in Glasgow

According to Reuters, Pacific islanders are "struggling" to make their voices heard at the COP26 in Glasgow, UK, as international travel continues to be affected by Covid-19.

Usually, almost all of the leaders from 14 Pacific island nations will reportedly attend the annual climate conference.

However, only three Pacific leaders from Palau, Fiji, and Tuvalu are present this year.

According to The Guardian, other island nations planned to send other representatives.

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Top image via Ministry of Justice, Communication and Foreign Affairs, Tuvalu Government/Facebook