How Tuvalu is dealing with impacts of the climate crisis

Tuvalu’s Minister for Finance, Hon. Seve Paeniu. Source: SPREP

5 December 2023, Dubai UAE – As a small, low-lying atoll nation in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, Tuvalu faces extraordinary challenges due to climate change, in particular from sea level rise.

By 2050, it is estimated that half the land area of the nation’s capital Funafuti will become flooded by tidal waters. By 2100, 95% of land will be flooded by routine high tides. Climate change also poses extreme risks to drinking water, food security, and energy supply.
Speaking on the margins of COP28 in Dubai, UAE, Tuvalu’s Minister for Finance, Hon. Seve Paeniu said the situation for his country is “very dire.”

“Our communities live with the reality of their land being eaten away by coastal erosion and rising sea levels, their foreshores eroding, some of the islands are disappearing,” he said. “When people talk about relocation, the concept doesn’t work in Tuvalu, we are a low-lying atoll nation just two metres above sea level with a very thin strip of land. So when you move from the foreshore inland, you actually go into the ocean on the other side. That’s how precarious our situation in Tuvalu.”

Hon. Paeniu is among Pacific leaders at COP28 amplifying the One Pacific Voice calling for urgent and ambitious climate action to address climate change. Despite the Pacific’s minimal contribution to the causes of climate change, Pacific communities are placed at the forefront of the crisis.
“Our taro plantations and our crops are dying because sea water has infiltrated our lands. Our fisheries has also been affected because of the salinity and the warming of the sea and so forth,” said Hon. Paeniu.

“Non-economic losses are real, our culture, traditions, language are very closely aligned with the land, so when you lose part of your land, that takes away part of your culture. That’s the non-economic loss we would like the Loss and Damage Fund to support. We need the Board to finalise the access procedures.”

According to the Minister of Finance, Tuvalu is not just making noises on the global stage, the Government is also actively seeking home grown solutions. One of them is Tuvalu’s Long-Term Adaptation Plan (L-TAP), also known as ‘Te Lafiga o Tuvalu’ (Tuvalu’s Refuge), developed by the Government of Tuvalu with the support of UNDP.

The plan presents a new approach to adaptation, designed to provide comprehensive solutions beyond 2100. The vision: 3.6 square kilometres of raised, safe land with staged relocation of people and infrastructure over time; a sustainable water supply; greater food and energy security; and space for expanding civic and commercial areas, including government offices, schools, and hospitals.

“For Tuvalu, the only permanent solution to protecting our land is to build more land and build up and that’s the true cost of adaptation. We didn’t cause climate change and sea level rise yet we face the full brunt of it. So loss and damage and climate financing needs to be provided at scale to enable us to implement permanent adaptation solutions to save our land,” he said.

“The accessibility to climate finance is really important. We need to have ready access to the Loss and Damage Fund and other climate finance mechanisms.  Tuvalu has also come up with a Long-term Adaptation Plan to build more land and build upwards.
“We are doing our due diligence and planning and we will put that across to the international community over the coming months in terms of the cost.”

The Minister also highlighted Tuvalu’s Climate Change and Disaster Survival, established in December 2015 to provide immediate vital services to the people of Tuvalu in combating the devastating impact of climate change and natural disasters; and allow Tuvalu to respond to future climate change impacts and natural disasters in a coordinated, effectively and timely manner.

“The last cyclone we had, we were able to provide monies from the Tuvalu Survival Fund to compensate for housing and properties damaged as a result of that cyclone. It’s a small fund but it’s mechanism that is fit for purpose and we would like to welcome more contributions by partners to help us with this.”

Source: SPREP