“If we are to remain on the islands, we have to raise the islands,” Tong said, adding that he believed the relevant technology and resources existed “but they’re not being made available.”
To build climate resilience, the remote nation has consulted foreign governments and companies on land reclamation technology as well as the idea of external floating accommodation.
Tong, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, led the country from 2003 to 2016 and has frequently warned that resettlement may be the last resort to Kiribati’s woes.
If the country can’t adapt to environmental challenges, “then we have to reconcile ourselves to the brutal reality that some of our people may have to be relocated,” he said.
“But we must not wait for that to happen,” he cautioned. “Because if we do, then our people will definitely become climate refugees.”