The central Pacific nation of Kiribati has become one of the most vulnerable due to the effects of climate change. Entire villages are having to relocate because of higher tides, and the majority of the country’s population of 100,000 people is crammed on to the islets of Tarawa (there are 32 pancake-flat coral atolls over 1,350,000 square miles of ocean).
"It is the surmounting of difficulties that make heroes," said Louis Kossuth, and with this in mind I am proud to announce that the Hillary Institute has named President Anote Tong of Kiribati the 4th annual Global Hillary Laureate.
President Tong is truly inspirational. While fighting the tides of climate change, he made an exceptional gesture to the world in 2008 by declaring 150,000 square miles (the size of California) of Kiribati’s Phoenix Islands marine area a fully protected marine park. This wonder of the ocean has now been designated a UN World Heritage Site.
President Tong has also become an active participant in international diplomatic efforts to raise awareness of climate change, and has most recently been in talks with Fiji to buy up to 6,000 acres of freehold land as a safety net for food production.
Founded in 2007 in honor of Sir Edmund Hillary, the Institute – of which I am a Governor – provides resources, support and inspiration to exceptional leaders in the battle against climate change. It is befitting that President Tong - who faces a series of literally uphill battles - follows in the footsteps of Sir Ed in his pursuit to save a nation in the forefront of climate change.