Kiribatians getting ready to flee with dignity

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at

Lobbying for the survival of his nation at the Copenhagen climate conference last week, Beterim Rimon - secretary for the office of the President - told Earth Beat's Marnie Chesterton about Kiribati's Plan B. Now that the talks have ended with little more than promises, Plan A - staying in Kiribati - grows ever less likely.

The low-lying collection of Pacific islands that makes up Kiribati could uninhabitable within 40 years, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Rising sea levels will submerge large parts of the island and salinate the little freshwater there is.


Plan A, of course, is to convince the world to halt global warming. But with a healthy dose of realism that can only have been affirmed by last week's anticlimax in Copenhagen, the government is making plans for its people to leave Kiribati on their own terms, not as climate refugees.

"Plan A, to us, is to build our islands and stay forever on our islands, but we doubt that very much. So it is our duty to lay a Plan B, otherwise we commit crimes to our future generations," Mr Rimon says.

Listen to the interview with Beterim Rimon

Listen to more of Earth Beat's in-depth Copenhagen coverage.