Tuvalu to move to metaverse over concerns about rising sea levels

As rising sea levels threaten to engulf the tiny island nation of Tuvalu in the South Pacific, the country has announced plans to create a metaverse version of itself.

Tuvalu Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Kofe told the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) that it was the only way to preserve their country.

Tuvalu will become the first digitized nation in the metaverse with the announcement. As its people are forced to relocate in the physical realm, the metaverse will allow Tuvalu to “fully function as a sovereign state.”

“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,” Kofe said.

During last year’s COP26, Kofe stood knee-deep in seawater to demonstrate Tuvalu’s vulnerability to climate change. He said Tuvalu needed to act because other countries were doing nothing to address climate change.

“Since COP26, the world has not acted, and so we in the Pacific have had to act. We have seen temperature rise projections remain well above 1.5 degrees Celsius, foretelling the imminent disappearance of islets like this one,” he said.

Tuvalu is a British Commonwealth island nation located between Hawaii and Australia. It is the world’s fourth-smallest country by area, with only ten square miles of land spread across nine islands hosting 12,000 people.

High tide not only submerges 40 percent of Tuvalu’s capital but also causes severe flooding at the start of each year. Experts predict that the entire country will be covered in water by the end of the century.

The project will begin with constructing a replica of the Teafualiku Islet, Tuvalu’s smallest island, which is the first to be lost if sea levels rise further.

Tuvalu has previously investigated how digital solutions could mitigate the devastation caused by climate change. Their government announced plans to establish a Tuvalu National Digital Ledger in 2021, which would store personal information about its citizens on a public blockchain.

This blockchain, which contains identity, citizenship and financial information, is hoped to ensure Tuvalu’s survival if the sea eventually overtakes the island nation’s entire land mass.

Metaverse nations, cities

The Caribbean nation of Barbados established a virtual diplomatic embassy in the metaverse last year. They have been working with multiple metaverse companies to develop digital sovereign land.

In September, The Seoul Metropolitan Government published a beta version of Metaverse Seoul, its “virtual municipal world.” Seoul was the first city to reveal metaverse ambitions in November 2021. In January this year, it announced a KRW 7 billion (US$5.2 million) investment in metaverse technologies as part of its digital transformation plan. By 2026, Seoul plans to have a metaverse ecosystem for all administrative services, including the economy, education, culture and tourism.

During the beta test period, chosen users can access Metaverse Seoul with a personal avatar to experience the “realistic virtual spaces” of Seoul City Hall and Seoul Plaza.

Changwon, a Korean industrial city on the peninsula’s southern coast, has become the latest South Korean city to pursue metaverse projects. It launched a web3 campaign with a metaverse industrial complex.

The project is part of the city’s digital marketing strategy to promote businesses and products. Based on the announcement, Changwon will build the digital twin in collaboration with the Korea Land and Geospatial Informatix Corporation, a group formed under the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport.