To the people of Kiribati, climate change is an existential threat.

This is an Island nation in the pacific — it is a string of atolls about halfway between Australia and Hawaii. It has a population of about 100,000 and is known for its vast Tuna stocks.

But climate change and rising sea levels are making much of Kiribati uninhabitable–it is a country that is facing extinction. And not in some distant future. This is happening now.

My guest today, Anote Tong, served as President of Kiribati from 2003 to 2016. President Tong is well known in international circles for being a powerful advocate on behalf of people living in small island states that are on the front line of climate change.

What I found so interesting about this conversation was learning how President Tong’s advocacy in international forums has evolved over time–and how this existential threat contributed to President Tong’s decision to create what is the world’s largest marine sanctuary: the Phoenix Islands Protection Area.

This episode is presented in partnership with the Global Challenges Foundation, whose aim is to contribute to reducing the main global problems and risks that threaten humanity. Last year, the Global Challenges Foundation held an open call to find new models of global cooperation better capable of handling the most pressing global risks. In May this year at the New Shape Forum in Stockholm, the top proposals will be presented publicly and further refined through discussions with key thought leaders and experts. US$5 million will be awarded to the best ideas that re-envision global governance for the 21st century.

President Tong is a Global Challenges Foundation ambassador and in the conversation we discuss this prize and why new ideas for global governance are important for the future of small island states like Kiribati.

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