Twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, winner of the Sunhak Peace Prize and 2012 Hillary Laurate, His Excellency Anote Tong is a world-renowned leader in the battles against climate change and for ocean conservation.
Throughout his three terms as President of the Republic of Kiribati he was forced to confront an extraordinary challenge and a bleak, all-but-unthinkable future for his compatriots: Kiribati is, he believes, quickly disappearing beneath the waves due to climate change, and the entire population may need to resettle – not as climate change refugees but as citizens who migrate on merit and with dignity.
Nevertheless, despite and perhaps because of this vast and unenviable task, Tong was able to achieve a great deal during the 13 years he spent in office. Under his leadership, the government of Kiribati created the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, a 150,000 square-mile UNESCO World Heritage site off limits to fishing and extractive industry. Initiatives such as this one, typical of Tong’s vision and his ability to balance political reality with humanitarian and ecological idealism, have earned him the Peter Benchley Ocean Award from the Blue Frontier Campaign.
Since leaving office he has continued to speak about the realities of climate change: the urgency of the issues; the complexity of the causes and possible solutions; the stark simplicity of the consequences should we fail to act.
He speaks with quiet dignity and unwavering conviction to scientists, politicians, industrialists and schoolchildren all over the world. He speaks as an expert and as an advocate, as a statesman and as a grandfather. He speaks on every medium and in person, on CNBC, on the floor of the UN General Assembly and on film in Anote’s Ark, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018. But wherever he speaks and whomever he speaks to, his message is consistent: the fate of Kiribati is the fate of the world.
Anote Tong been awarded an honorary Doctorate in Engineering from the National Pukyong University in South Korea to add to his BSc from Canterbury University and his Master’s in Economics from the LSE. He is married to Bernadette Meme Tong. They have eight children and over 15 grandchildren.