But before the announced tragedy becomes a reality, the 11,000 strong nation wants to send a clear message to the world: invest in clean and renewable energies now.
Tuvalu itself has launched a "Small is beautiful" campaign, to set the example. Its main objective: becoming energy independent through biofuels and biomass. Remote island states suffer more than anyone under high oil prices, because fuels have to be shipped over great distances to islands with small populations. And in the case of Tuvalu, dependence on foreign oil is quasi-total. CO2 from fossil fuels is largely responsible for Tuvalu's fate, so symbolically speaking it would be absurd for the micro-state to import more of it. It is instead taking a U-turn.
But how then is such a small, remote, but paradisiacal nation ever going to become energy independent?
The "Small is beautiful" campaign gives itself 10 years to become self-sufficient in energy matters. The idea was conceived by Gilliane le Gallic, known for her beautiful but disturbing documentary "Nuages au Paradis" (Clouds over Paradise), about the grim future of the island state.
The plan now is to turn Tuvalu into a model of sustainability, covering each imaginable sector of life on the island from water and sanitation, to energy, biodiversity, beaches and tourism. No renewable energy technology will be left unused, from wind, to solar water heating.
Biofuels and bioenergy
Fanny Héros, who leads the cultural component of the campaign, which finds its main staff at the Tuvaly Maritime Training Institute, says that the project "will be very focused on biomass and bioenergy, with biodigesters producing biogas from human, animal and agricultural waste-streams".
"A biodiesel production unit will use abundant coconut oil". Two hectares of coconut plantation would satisfy all the demand for marine diesel (boats are Tuvalu's main mode of transport, and they're used heavily by tourism). Moreover, the same plantation will also cover 20% of the domestic electricity need, either using coco-diesel in generators or coconut shells for combustion.
Other, more solid biological waste streams will be turned into pellets, ready to be burned at a biomass plant.
A showroom for sustainable development, in the middle of the Pacific
"The idea is to turn Tuvalu into a pilot atoll", Fanny Héros adds. We are experimenting with new technologies to grow biomass in salty environments, because much of our land has suffered under saltification. We're even exploring the idea of using coral reefs as bases to grow energy. "Until now, Tuvalu was a victim of forces beyond its own control, now we're turning these forces into our advantage, and we'll show the world what's possible".
Without precedent amongst small island states, this ambitious project is supported by French institutions (Fonds Pacific, French Embassy in Fiji). Both the Asian Development Bank, and the PIGGAREP program, a United Nations initiative to reduce carbon-emissions in 10 Pacific island states, including Tuvalu, are impressed and wish it could be duplicated in all Pacific nations.
Novethic, media for sustainable development.
Interesting side-news: EU Chief Barosso receives the ironic "Tuvalu Palme d'Or" for his committment not to fight global warming.