Kiribati Trying to Keep Its Head Above Water



Kiribati, a small Pacific island nation, could disappear under water in a few decades due to climate trends. Former President Anote Tong led initiatives to address climate change effects, such as the Kiribati Adaptation Program . This World Bank-funded program helped to provide education and infrastructure support to help the country manage the threat of climate change but only through 2016.  It is now crucial for the current Kiribati administration to continue this progress and introduce a formal policy to mitigate the effects of climate change and preserve this beautiful country.

Key stakeholders support efforts to curtail climate change. The United Nations has increased international attention on climate change effects in Kiribati.  International businesses such as Sunlabob Renewable Energy  and Kiribati Fish Ltd. are using natural resources to create training and economic opportunities. There is grassroots support for environment protection from NGOs such as the Kiribati Climate Action Network.  However, skepticism exists among various entities.  Current President Taneti Maamau places lower priority on climate change than the former president did . Even the pastor with the Kiribati Uniting Church, serving almost half of the country’s population, does not fully believe in these effects.  

There should be no doubt that climate change can affect the wellbeing of all Kiribati people.  We must petition Parliament to introduce a bill that shifts funding toward climate change mitigation programs focusing on international advocacy, education, and local economic support with signature of President Maamau. Tebao Awerika, Minister of Environment, Lands, and Agricultural Development, and Dr. Teuea Taotu, Minister of Finance and Economic Development, can provide testimony to Parliament and strengthen our advocacy efforts.  This government must be a part of actionable change to save lives and maintain the wellbeing of Kiribati citizens.


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5 Responses to “Kiribati Trying to Keep Its Head Above Water”

  1. jyoon Says:

    I really enjoyed reading your post because I grew up in Palau, an island nation that is also threatened by climate change. You highlighted several initiatives being taken by Micronesian countries to protect their islands. It is encouraging to see local organizations in Kiribati that are actively participating in the climate change movement. In Palau, the President is involving the American media and celebrities to promote climate change to the world. Here are couple examples:

  2. allyshachoudhury Says:

    Great read! Climate change is very relevant to public health of the globe, especially for countries that are expected to experience the effects of rising sea levels first. For example, the salinity of drinking water has already increased in some coastal countries. This is believed to have contributed to increased gestational hypertension in areas, which is associated with low birth weight of neonates. (

    We can only hope that the grassroots movements of Kiribati gain more traction so that the government can begin informing and protecting citizens from the consequences of climate change.

  3. Leona Cassiani Says:

    Comment 1

    Thank you for your post! This is an interesting topic that is also a problem for Norfolk, VA.
    There is a lot of interest in Norfolk because it has the world’s largest Navy base there. But, like Kiribati, the area struggles with poor infrastructure and natural disasters. And unlike Kiribati, there hasn’t been much government action. It seems a lot of the action has come from citizens or private organizations. What is interesting is that a Unitarian church in Norfok has an online warning for its parishioners when flooding when they need to deter people from coming to services. I wonder if the 2015 committee formed from the Virginia General Assembly succeeded in presenting their report. Maybe that would have strategies for Kiribati?

    Regarding your sentence that “the pastor” did not believe in climate change, it looks like finally one pastor (I’m not sure how many there are) is starting to come around, which is good news.

    I am also impressed how a former president purchased land as a climate change/flooding refuge site in Fiji! .

    Somehow we still struggle with the intersection of religion and climate change in the US, as this article points out:

    I agree with you in that funding should be used for “climate change mitigation programs focusing on international advocacy, education, and local economic support with signature of President Maamau.” I hope that if there are still doubts about climate change and others who don’t believe in it, then the education component that you mentioned will help to change this. We need a lot of help and social will to help Kiribati.

    Again, very interesting post and you bring up good points!

  4. tgeier Says:

    Climate change is an incredibly difficult subject to tackle. Even more so considering that there are a fair number of policy makers who continue to deny or downplay the process and effects of climate change.

    Kiribati will not be the only location that will suffer the effects of climate change in the coming decades. In many ways, this is a global problem requiring global solutions. That is why I think agreement like the Paris Climate Accords are so essential. It will be impossible for countries to individually prevent and mitigate the effects of climate change.

    The interesting part will be to see whether places like Kiribati will be able to actually mitigate the effects of climate change effectively since they don’t have very much political or economic power on the international stage. In order to truly mitigate the effects of climate change, large players like the U.S., China, and India must play an important role.

  5. bdelarmente Says:

    This is a very informative and timely post which addresses an issue which I think has not gotten the attention it needs. In addition to the various health effects of climate change on island nations such as Kiribati, climate change also poses a threat to the country’s security and basic survival. It thus puzzles me how current leaders in Kiribati remain skeptical when leaders from island nations in a similar situation are strong advocates about stronger international measures to mitigate climate change. When I worked at the Asian Development Bank on a project identifying critical constraints to growth in Maldives, one of the most important issues I found that they faced is their receding coastlines because of sea level rise secondary to climate change. They recognized it to be a very serious problem to the point that they are looking into negotiating with India about purchasing territory in the future for their citizens. Kiribati should think about these issues as well. More importantly, I think it is important that Kiribati also lend its voice to the advocacy efforts towards instituting stronger international efforts to curb or slow down the development of climate change.

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