His Excellency Anote Tong, the President of Kiribati, is a global leader whose dedication and passionate leadership helped to bring about a consensus by the international community concerning climate peace.
He dedicated himself to raising public awareness of the severe impacts of the climate crisis to the international community in order to address its impacts on his country of Kiribati, which is gradually being submerged due to rising sea-levels caused by climate change. Also, he worked for the rights of climate refugees to make sure his country’s citizens who are at risk of being the victims of this climate crisis, will be able to keep their dignity if they are forced to migrate.
Furthermore, he is leading the cause to designate a large part of the Pacific region as an environmentally protected area, while forgoing immediate financial benefits to his country for the climate peace of the future generations.
- Anote Tong is the president of Kiribati, a small island nation located in the Pacific Ocean that is threatened with submersion by 2050 because of the rising sea levels caused by climate change.
- Kiribati has a population of 103,000. Eighty percent of the citizens’ livelihoods, 40 percent of the national income and 90 percent of the country’s protein comes from the ocean.
- The sea-level rise is causing food and water shortages, reduced land area, overpopulation and rapid increase in diseases from water pollution.
- President Tong designated 408,250 square kilometers of his country’s waters as a “marine protected area.”
- To prevent his people from becoming “climate change refugees” who do not receive proper human rights, President Tong is offering vocational training for a “mass migration with dignity” plan.
- As part of the plan, trained nurses and technicians have begun to resettle in Australia and New Zealand.
- In 2014, President Tong purchased 2,000 hectares of land in Fiji and is considering relocating his population.
- President Tong believes that climate change is the largest moral challenge of the 21st Century.
- President Tong has appealed to the UN General Assembly to work to address the dangers of climate change.
- President Tong helped organize the Pacific Oceanscape which, if designated as a marine protected area, will conserve 10 percent of the world’s oceans as a gift for future generations.
- Born on 11 June 1952, Fanning Island, Line Islands, Kiribati
- Married to Meme Bernadette, 8 children
- 1974-1976: Assistant Secretary (Development), Economic Planning Office, Ministry of Finance
- 1976-1977: Senior Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Education
- 1978: Director of Economic Planning, Ministry of Economic Planning
- 1978-1980: Project Officer, South Pacific Bureau for Economic Cooperation (SPEC)
- 1980-1982: Secretary for Ministry of Communications & Works
- 1982-1983: Secretary for Ministry of Natural Resources Development
- 1983-1992: Director, Atoll Research and Development Unit, USP
- 1993-1994: Administrative Secretary, Pacific Air-Services Alliance Corp (PASA)
- 1994: Elected Member of Parliament for Maiana
- 1994-1996: Minister of Natural Resources Development
- 1996-2003: Member of Parliament (Boutokaan Te Koaua party)
- July 2003: Elected President of Kiribati
- October 2007: Re-elected President of Kiribati
- 2008: David B. Stone Award (New England Aquarium Foundation)
- 2009: Taiwan Medal Order of Brilliant Jade with Grand Cordon, Speaker of the Legislative Yuan
- 2012: Peter Benchley Ocean Award (Blue Frontier Campaign)
- 2012: Hillary Award (Hilary Institute of International Leadership)
Led the international community to act on climate change
His Excellency Anote Tong, President of Kiribati, actively informed the international community about the climate crisis facing low-lying Pacific small island states due to rising sea levels, and led the international community to actively embark on addressing this issue.
Even though immediate assistance and cooperation was needed by the international community to achieve climate peace for the future generations by reducing carbon emissions, and adjusting negative developments that threaten the environment, etc., conflicting interests among countries made for a sluggish show of pace.
Thus, in order to raise international awareness on the climate crisis issue, Pres. Tong invited world delegates to Kiribati and held the Tarawa Climate Change Conference (TCCC) on 12 Nov. 2010 and adopted the Ambo Declaration.
This is an 18-point resolution calling upon major economies including China and vulnerable nations to address the causes and adverse impacts of climate change, and urge them to embark upon immediate and concrete action.
This agreement between the nations was presented at the larger international climate change summit, the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) COP (Conference of Parties) 16 in Cancun, Mexico, and became the basis for the economically developed countries to support countries such as Kiribati vulnerable to climate change.
Furthermore, he played a core role in gathering support so that the major economies and developed countries can both actively cope with climate change.
Led the protection of marine ecosystems by paying a price for the future generations
In order to protect the ocean from pollution caused by human greed and intemperance, Pres. Tong let go of his country’s immediately profitable assets in order to protect the marine ecosystem.
He led the world’s largest marine protection and ocean management initiative by area in the ‘Phoenix Islands Protected Area’ designation, and ‘Pacific Oceanscape Network Initiative’, etc., and actively took the lead for the conservation of the Pacific Rim as the resource repository for the future generations and the basis for peace.
Efforts to conserve the Pacific Rim started with first relinquishing his own country’s real profitable assets.
In 2006, Pres. Anote Tong worked with CI (Conservation International) and the New England Aquarium to create the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), encompassing some of the most pristine and coral-rich waters on the planet.
Upon its full legal establishment in 2008, PIPA expanded to include more than 400,000km² of ocean prohibiting fishing and other exploitations, making it the world’s largest marine protected area at the time. Two years later it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The area’s rich biodiversity includes an abundance of healthy corals, big sharks, groupers, tuna, giant clams and other marine animals that have been depleted in much of the rest of the world.
The Phoenix Islands is also a major source of revenue for the people of Kiribati with its beautiful environment and rich species of fish.
Therefore, prohibiting fishing activities and conserving the area also means that the Kiribati economy has had to endure a substantial blow. Yet despite all this, Pres. Tong passed a law prohibiting all commercial fishing within the Phoenix Islands Protected Area explaining that, “These efforts are a significant contribution to the world community in the hope that they would also act.”
Going further, Pres. Tong conceived the Pacific Oceanscape framework, an unprecedented effort among 23 Pacific island nations to collaboratively and sustainably protect, manage, and sustain nearly 40 million km² of ocean.
The Pacific Oceanscape concept was introduced to the Pacific Islands Forum by Kiribati in 2009. The Framework for the cooperative stewardship of their combined ocean territories was presented a year later, receiving unanimous endorsement by the heads of state and governments of 15 participating nations.
Together, the nations of the Pacific Oceanscape have responsibility for some 10% of the world’s ocean surface, an area four times the size of the United States.
Committed to ensuring the dignity of human rights for climate refugees
Pres. Tong is devoting a significant amount of his energy into defending the rights of his citizens, and contributed greatly in building awareness among the international community on the protection of human rights for climate refugees.
Pres. Tong is establishing a systematic migration policy so that his country’s citizens, who will be forced to leave Kiribati within the next 30 years due to rising sea levels submerging their country, can migrate with their dignity intact.
First, he worked diligently to secure funds to buy land for the resettlement, purchasing 24.28 million m² of land in Fiji, and is running the ‘migration with dignity’ vocational education program so that they will not be treated as unstable ‘refugees’ but as valuable members of the work-force with competitiveness and marketability.
Even as hope seemed to diminish as his country’s citizens faced the possibility of losing their homes due to climate change, Pres. Tong’s warm love for humanity shined brightly as he strove to safeguard human dignity, and established various expert vocational training programs such as nursing, seamanship, horticulture gardening, etc. as well as linguistics.
These efforts by Pres. Tong contributed to the international community urging for higher cooperation for the human rights of climate refugees and cooperation amongst countries regarding migration.
We have and will continue to protect and preserve this Earth, our one and only home.
It is indeed an honour that I accept with the greatest humility this award on behalf of our future generations and the people of Kiribati, for it is on their behalf that I have waged this campaign to ensure a secure and safe future for our children, our grandchildren and their children.
This award from an organization outside the formal authority of the United Nations (UN), sends a very positive signal that there are those in this global community who are as equally committed to finding a solution to a globally destabilizing threat such as climate change.
It has not been a journey without challenges. I remember the time when I used to talk about climate change and being faced with the challenge of not being taken seriously and at times having to justify my concerns against scientific and expert opinions skeptical about climate change. However, more recently, science and the world at large are coming together with the underlying message that climate change is a reality and that there are no other options but to work together as a global community to address this calamity. It has indeed been very gratifying to witness such a momentous and positive change with particular credit to the strong stewardship of my fellow leaders.
Kiribati, is but a small nation, nevertheless, we are as much part of the global community as any other nation and we have and will continue to protect and preserve this Earth, our one and only home. This award complements and enhances the voice of my people and those at the frontline of climate change with the underlying message that the fate of small island states captures the essence of what global warming might mean at its most severe. The urgency now is in translating such global support to tangible benefits on the ground into action.
Again, I am very humbled and honoured to have been considered as one of the first recipients of the award particularly with a very worthy fellow awardee, Dr. Modadugu Vijay Gupta, whose work will go a long way towards strengthening global food security for all humanity. It is my sincere hope that this award will signal a path towards greater global peace and security for all.