Tuvalu said on Thursday (Nov 17) that it plans to build a digital version of itself, replicating islands and landmarks and preserving its history and culture as rising sea levels threaten to submerge the tiny Pacific island nation.
Tuvalu's Foreign Minister Simon Kofe told the COP27 climate summit earlier in the week that it was time to look at alternative solutions for his country's survival and this included Tuvalu becoming the first digitised nation in the metaverse - an online realm that uses augmented and virtual reality (VR) to help users interact.
Kofe, who grabbed global attention at last year's COP26 when he addressed the conference standing knee-deep in the sea, told Reuters that his video address from the digital twin of the islet Te Afualiku had gone viral, adding that viewers had mixed feelings.
"You're shocked but then also excited about this new technology that we're exploring," Kofe said.
Tuvalu will be the first country to replicate itself in the metaverse but follows both the city of Seoul and the island nation of Barbados which last year said they would enter the metaverse to provide administrative and consular services, respectively.
A group of nine islands and 12,000 people halfway between Australia and Hawaii, Tuvalu has long been a cause celebre for the risks of climate change and rising sea levels.
Up to 40 per cent of the capital district is underwater at high tide, and the entire country is forecast to be underwater by the end of the century.
Kofe said he hoped that the creation of a digital nation would allow Tuvalu to continue to function as a state even if it becomes completely submerged.
"As expected from a country that is at the forefront of climate we need to think outside the box, we need to pioneer some of these initiatives," he added.
This is important as the government begins efforts to ensure that Tuvalu continues to be recognised internationally as a state and its maritime boundaries - and the resources within those waters - are maintained even if the islands are submerged.
Kofe said that seven governments have agreed to continual recognition, but there were challenges if Tuvalu goes under as it is a new area of international law.