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Islands fear climate change chaos

The president of the Pacific island nation of Kiribati is so worried about climate change wiping out his country that he is considering ideas as strange as building a floating island.

President Anote Tong raised the notion on the opening day of a meeting of Pacific leaders in Auckland.

Climate change has become a central theme of this year's Pacific Islands Forum thanks to the presence of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who has vowed to put the issue at the forefront of the UN agenda.

Mr Ban visited the Solomon Islands and Kiribati before coming to New Zealand and said it only strengthened his view that "something is seriously wrong with our current model of economic development".

Mr Tong said he had seen models for a two billion US dollar (£1.3 billion) floating island, which he likened to a giant offshore oil platform.

He said while it sounded "like something from science fiction", every idea had to be considered given the dire situation facing Kiribati, a low-lying archipelago with a population of 103,000.

Other ideas to combat rising ocean levels include building a series of seawalls at a cost of nearly a billion dollars (£626 million), Mr Tong said, and relocating some residents to other Pacific nations. But he said he could not imagine a day that Kiribati was abandoned.

"Would Kiribati disappear?" he said. "Never. Never."

Mr Tong said some people have already lost their homes to rising sea levels. He said he is yet to see much in the way of financial aid from Europe despite ambitious pledges.

European Commissioner for climate action Connie Hedegaard, who was attending the conference, said Europe has granted more than seven billion euro (£6 billion) for specific environmental projects around the world in the three years ending in 2012.

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