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Semafor LogoDiego Mendoza
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The island of Tuvalu plans to preserve itself in the metaverse as climate change threatens its existence

Diego Mendoza is a Breaking News reporter. You can reach him at dmendoza@semafor.com. Sign up for Flagship, our daily newsletter that distills what’s happening in the world into a concise, insightful morning read.

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The tiny Pacific Ocean island nation of Tuvalu announced at the COP27 climate conference that it plans to digitally replicate itself in the metaverse, as the country's existence is increasingly threatened by rising sea levels.

Tuvalu beach
INABA Tomoaki/Wikimedia Commons
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In a video played for COP27 attendees in Egypt, Tuvalu's foreign minister Simon Kofe called out world powers for not taking bold action in reducing greenhouse gasses, saying that as a result of rising sea levels, Tuvalu has "no choice" but to become the first digitalized country.

"Our land, our ocean, our culture are the most precious assets of our people and to keep them safe from harm, no matter what happens in the physical world, we will move them to the cloud," he said in the video, before the camera panned out to reveal that he was speaking from the digitalized island.

The metaverse is a growing, digitalized replication of the real world that users can connect to with virtual reality technology.

It is the second time Kofe has grabbed the world's attention at a COP conference: At last year's meeting, the minister addressed attendees in a video that showed him standing knee-deep in the ocean to demonstrate how much sea levels have risen. For years, Tuvalu — the world's fourth smallest country — has been warning that it's sinking. A majority of the island is only three meters above sea level, according to a 2019 Guardian report, and two of its nine islands are almost at the point of being submerged.

Although no other country has committed to completely digitalizing itself, both the city of Seoul and the island country of Barbados said they are in the process of providing certain services via the metaverse, Reuters reported.

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