By Pita Ligaiula in Glasgow

The tiny Pacific nation of Tuvalu is looking at legal avenues to keep ownership of its maritime zones and recognition as a country even if the island nation is completely submerged due to the impacts of climate change.

Foreign Minister Simon Kofe said Tuesday his island nation is looking to the future and preparing now for the worst case scenario, where their lands disappear and their people must leave.

“We will not stand idly by as the water rises around us. We are not just talking in Tuvalu; we are mobilising collective action at home, in our region, and on the international stage to secure our future.

“On the national level, we are pursuing bold legal avenues to ensure that Tuvalu’s existing maritime boundaries will remain intact and we will still be recognised as sovereign even if our land territory is lost to climate change.

We are also rapidly adopting innovative digital tools and platforms to build a digital nation,” said Kofe in his virtual address at Pacific Climate Change Mobility and Human Security Side Event at COP26 in Glasgow.

He said Tuvalu are living the realities of climate change and sea level rise.

“We cannot wait for speeches when the sea is rising around us all the time. Climate mobility must come to the forefront; we must take bold, alternative action today to secure tomorrow.

“We are petitioning and demanding that global net zero be secured by mid-century, that 1.5 degrees be kept within reach, that urgently needed climate finance be mobilised to address loss and damage, and that there be greater accountability from all nations and peoples to act as good stewards of the Earth.

But we are also not going to wait for the world to get its act together,” said Kofe.

Kofe said at the regional level, Tuvalu see the tremendous importance of platforms like the Pacific Climate Change Migration and Human Security Programme and the Joint Working Group on Climate-Related Mobility co-chaired by Tuvalu and Fiji.

“These platforms will provide Pacific-led arrangements to support climate-related migration that are informed by our unique cultures, values, and ways of life.

“Outside of our Pacific family, our global family is still critical to us, and we will not give up on COP.

“We will continue to promote our value of kaitasi, which refers to our shared responsibility to act in the best interests of the global community, and fale-pili, which represents our duty to act as good neighbours to all nations and peoples. We all have a responsibility at COP26 to address climate change and ensure that climate mobility, at whatever scale, takes centre stage,” he said.

Kofe said climate change and sea level rise are deadly and existential threats to Tuvalu and all low-lying atoll countries.

“We are sinking. But so is everyone else. And no matter if we feel the impacts today like in Tuvalu, or in 100 years, we will all still feel the dire effects of this global crisis one day.

“In Tuvalu, our islands are sacred to us. They contain the mana of our people. They were the home of our ancestors, they are the home of our people today, and we want them to remain the home of our people into the future. This is why this call to you from Tuvalu is not just a political statement. It is a call that reverberates from our eight islands and our 12,000 people to the international community,” he said.