The tech scene dreams of a purely virtual parallel world. The island state of Tuvalu sees it as a last resort. Because the country will soon disappear into the sea, it wants at least a second chance in the digital world.

It is a hopeless struggle for one’s own existence. For years, forecasts have been assuming that rising sea levels will sink the Pacific island nation. Foreign Minister Simon Kofe has now announced a drastic plan: Tuvalu wants to be the first state to create a complete digital copy – so that it can continue to exist as a state after its collapse in the virtual world.

This was announced by Kofe at the current climate summit COP27. “Since the world does not act, we must act ourselves,” he announced dramatically in a video message. As temperatures continue to rise, the islands would slowly be swallowed up by the sea. “As our country disappears, we have no choice but to become the first digital nation.” The land, the ocean and the culture are the greatest treasure of the people. “To protect them from harm, no matter what happens in the physical world, we will move to the cloud.”

Rescue in the Metaverse

They want to copy the country and its characteristics bit by bit into the virtual world. “To bring comfort to our people and to remind our children and grandchildren of what our home was once made of.” But for the small island state it is about more than just creating a kind of virtual museum for its homeland. “For us, it’s about preserving our status as a state, our sovereignty and our borders,” Kofe explains. Tuvalu is the first country to want to continue to exist without any real land. “It is important that the best scenario is worked out globally. But we in the Pacific have to prepare for the worst.”

The step into the virtual world thus becomes the last resort. So far, the metaverse has been thought of primarily as an extension of everyday life, as a further expansion of the Internet. Corporations like Facebook, which has since been renamed Meta, rave about the fact that people interact, shop and work together in the virtual environment. The pioneers probably accepted the fact that people could spend their whole lives there. Letting an entire state exist only virtually shouldn’t even have occurred to Mark Zuckerberg.

The end in sight

For Tuvalu, however, it could actually be the last resort. The country, consisting of nine islands between Australia and Hawaii, has been fighting climate change for years at the forefront. Unfortunately, it has little power of its own to achieve this: Tuvalu has just under 12,000 inhabitants, and the nation’s total gross domestic product is around 60 million euros. The government – just like neighboring Kiribati – had already tried to get asylum in Australia or New Zealand for its entire population and to gradually emigrate. However, although like the two countries it is part of the British Commonwealth and King Charles III. is the official head of state, these requests were rejected. Only individual families were officially granted refugee status.

With the goal of a virtual state, Tuvalu is also striving for the option of being able to determine sovereignty over the borders of the island kingdom without the land area still existing as such. According to Kofe, seven states have already pledged to respect the borders and sovereignty even after the sinking. However, this is not a matter of course, as international maritime law does not yet provide for such a case.

Dramatic Appeal

How far the project has progressed becomes clear at the end of the video. As the camera slowly moves away from the Foreign Minister, who continues to speak, the viewer can see that he is not actually on the real island – instead he was shown in its virtual copy. Only through global cooperation can man-made climate change be slowed down and his country prevented from going under and further dramatic consequences for other countries. “It’s a long time to act. We have to start today,” he appealed. “Otherwise Tuvalu will only exist in one place – here.”