To demonstrate the effects that climate change has had on his tiny country, the foreign minister of the island nation of Tuvalu addressed the U.N. Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, while standing thigh-deep in sea water.
In the prerecorded video message, Simon Kofe stands at a podium in a suit and tie discussing the existential environmental threat to Tuvalu and other low-lying island countries.
“In Tuvalu, we are living the reality of climate change and sea level rise. As you stand watching me today at COP26, we cannot wait for speeches when the sea is rising around us all the time,” he urged conferees.
In an interview with the Reuters news agency that has gone viral, Kofe said Wednesday the video was recorded in an area that was once dry land. As the video ends, a concrete slab appears in the water behind Kofe, which he says was once a base for a large gun built by the United States for use in World War II.
Kofe said the idea was to send a powerful message to the conference about the realities island nations are facing. He said Tuvalu is imagining a worst-case scenario, where people are forced to relocate because their land is submerged. The island nations are considering legal avenues in which they can retain ownership of their maritime zones.
Small island nations like Tuvalu were crucial in ensuring that the 1.5-degree Celsius warming threshold was adopted at the 2015 Paris Climate Accords.
The COP26 concludes Friday.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.