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'Digital nation' tries to save itself from climate doom

Kat Wong -

A Pacific island nation that could soon be swallowed by rising sea levels has taken steps to preserve its statehood by migrating into the digital realm.

The findings of the first global stocktake of climate change progress will be unveiled at COP28 in Dubai, attended by Australian officials, within the next week.

But a technical assessment released in September revealed none of the 195 countries who have signed the Paris Agreement are on track to keep global temperature rises below 1.5C, which means low-lying island nations may cease to exist.

In response, Tuvalu has attempted to secure perpetual statehood by asking other nations to recognise the tiny South Pacific country as a "digital state" at the United Nations climate change conference.

This would allow the nation to continue as an existing sovereign state through a digital existence regardless of whether it has a physical territory.

Tuvalu's digital statehood has been recognised by 26 countries since announcing the initiative at COP27, but the island-state wants to double that by 2024.

Tuvalu wants to secure perpetual statehood by asking nations to recognise it as a "digital state". (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

Tuvalu's Justice, Communication and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Kofe says the move will safeguard what is important to his nation's people.

"As the tide closes in around us, we are digitally recreating our land, archiving our history and culture, moving all our governmental functions into a digital space, and ensuring Tuvalu and our people exist as a nation even after our physical land is no more," he said.

"We are taking these practical steps because we must, but the tragedy of losing our island home cannot be overstated."

Cultural artefacts like the sounds of children's language, dances and festivals, and elder's stories have begun a digitisation process.

Over the last year, Tuvalu has also completed three-dimensional scans of the 124 islands and islets that make up the nation.

The government has also upgraded its communications infrastructure so it can migrate Tuvalu onto the cloud and move state affairs like elections, referendums and birth registries online.

In November, Australia recognised the existential threat climate change poses to Tuvalu via the Falepili Union treaty.

Under the pact, Australia will take in 280 Tuvaluans per year through a special visa while committing $16.9 million in projects to increase the landmass of the nation's main island.

These efforts are expected to reflect positively on Australia's bid to co-host the world's biggest climate talks with Pacific nations in 2026.

Kat Wong - AAP

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