Case study | Tuvalu
Climate change gets real in the metaverse
The Pacific Island nation of Tuvalu is in peril, threatened by a rapidly warming planet. “Climate change and sea level rise are deadly, existential threats to Tuvalu and low-lying atoll countries,” the country’s Minister for Justice, Communication and Foreign Affairs, Simon Kofe, told an international delegation at COP26. “We are sinking, but so is everyone else.”
The first step was to create a digital twin—a virtual representation—of Te Afualiku, a tiny islet, that is expected to be one of the first parts of Tuvalu to be submerged.
Like many island nations, Tuvalu is experiencing frequent flooding, known as “king tides.” And experts predict that Tuvalu could disappear into the Pacific Ocean in a matter of decades if climate change continues unabated. In response to this predicament, country leaders launched the Future Now Project, which seeks to establish Tuvalu as the world’s first completely digital nation. In addition to digitizing administrative services and cultural records, Tuvalu is also working to secure its statehood and, maritime boundaries and endowments, even if its functional government is ultimately forced to relocate.
With COP27 approaching, Tuvalu reached out to Accenture to help it share a story of urgency on a global stage and spur concerted action.
The islet of Te Afualiku is expected to be the first part of the country that could be lost to climate change. So, the small island became the first to be recreated digitally.
Accenture’s Sustainability Studio and Accenture Song developed a concept for Kofe to deliver his COP27 speech remotely from Tuvalu’s tiny islet, Te Afualiku.
Zooming out, we’d reveal that the scene was actually in the metaverse. Collaborating with government officials, we developed and produced a digital twin, short film and interactive-advocacy website for this cause in just six weeks.
Our Metaverse Continuum developers rendered an immersive 3D setting from movie-quality photos and videos of the islet. Technologies including Unreal Engine 5 and Lumin helped incorporate real-world physics to animate ocean waves and currents, and accurately capture how light bounces off the island’s white sands and lush palms at any hour, day or night.
Although the physical island of Te Afualiku may be threatened, the values of endurance and resilience should continue to live on in every Tuvaluan.
Simon Kofe / Tuvalu’s Minister for Justice, Communication and Foreign Affairs
The filmed COP27 speech and the digital twin enabled Tuvalu to communicate to the world—in an unforgettable way. Kofe’s message reached more than 9 million people globally, and to date, concerned citizens from 118 countries (and counting) have engaged with Tuvalu's advocacy website, Tuvalu.tv.
Building Te Afualiku in the metaverse was just the first step. Tuvaluan officials can now work to save the country’s other islands in a virtual space—or use digital twins to preserve and showcase their culture, traditions and natural resources. Perhaps even more impactful, they could put world leaders anywhere knee-deep in Pacific seawater to make it clear that climate change is here, now. The stakes, like the tides, are only getting higher.
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