Coping with climate change in the Pacific island region
Title: Coping with climate change in the Pacific island region
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Countries: Pacific island region: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands. Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu
Lead executing agency: Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)
Overall term: 2009 to 2018
The Pacific island states are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. The inhabitants of many islands are already suffering from extreme weather events such as hurricanes, droughts, heavy rainfall and floods, and their effects, for example coastal erosion and – especially on the atolls – water shortages. The predicted rise in sea levels, altered precipitation patterns, higher temperatures and acidification of the ocean will exacerbate these risks in the coming decades. This jeopardises the livelihoods of the people, most of whom are engaged in agriculture, forestry and fishing and are thus dependent on natural resources. Extreme weather events also have a particularly detrimental impact on tourism. Primary and secondary schools in the region have so far taught pupils little about the local effects of climate change. The countries need experts in climate change adaptation and mitigation and sustainable development. A further problem for the Pacific island states is their heavy dependence on fossil fuels for energy production.
The people are not yet sufficiently prepared to cope with the current and future consequences of climate change. There is a lack of knowledge, reliable data and adaptation strategies, for instance promoting alternative farming, fishing and forestry methods. The effects of climate change and possible adaptation strategies are increasingly being incorporated into policy frameworks and regulations. However, information and knowledge management, the monitoring and coordination of these adaptation measures at regional and national level are in need of improvement in many respects.
The skills and capabilities of the local population, national governmental authorities and regional organisations are enhanced in order to cope with the effects of climate change and combat its causes.
The programme supports the regional organisations the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), in improving their information packages, advisory services and training opportunities on the topic of climate change.
It advises the governments of the island states on developing policies and strategies to prepare key sectors of the economy for the anticipated climate-related events. As climate change impacts on almost all sectors including agriculture, tourism, fisheries, water and health, the partners are reviewing existing development plans and policy guidelines for their climate resilience, and adjusting them accordingly.
The programme focuses on terrestrial and marine resources, and on the education, energy and tourism sectors. In Fiji, the programme supports authorities and residents in forest conservation (REDD+ measures).
Climate adaptation activities are carried out at community level in all countries. These adopt multidisciplinary and integrated approaches that involve several partners.
All partner countries have integrated climate adaptation approaches into national strategies.
Numerous adaptation measures have been carried out with the involvement of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, the United Nations Development Programme, the USA, Australia, Nature Conservancy, representatives of various local ministries, the Office of the President of Kiribati, the European Commission and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
- Vanuatu has already implemented various climate adaptation measures. Farmers are breeding pigs that are more heat-tolerant and cultivating crops that are better adapted to changes in the climate. The country has also introduced solar-powered fruit driers and coral farming.
- The activities in Fiji concentrate mainly on REDD+ and relocating communities threatened by climate change.
- In Tonga, the focus is on food security, agroforestry and land use planning.
- In Choiseul province in the Solomon Islands, a multidisciplinary Ridge-Community-Reef Climate Change Adaptation Approach is currently being implemented. Here, a number of different partners are working together on a programme basis.
- An integrated vulnerability assessment was conducted on the whole island of Abaiang in Kiribati, on the basis of which the government integrated climate adaptation activities into the local development plan. Teachers in all primary and secondary schools have been trained on climate change issues. Courses were tailored to the region’s specific circumstances.
- In the Federated States of Micronesia and on Upolu and Savaii in Samoa, selected communities are working on the sustainable management of their coastal resources. To lower the strain on the already overfished coastal waters, six fish aggregation devices have been installed in the Federated States of Micronesia and 16 in Samoa. The community members attend information and training events so that they can continue to run the projects themselves.
- Vanuatu has worked with the programme to develop proposals for grid-connected solar systems and micro-hydroelectric power. The programme has also discussed the possibilities presented by solar energy and wind power for other islands.
- Several Pacific island states have integrated the subject of climate change and its effects into their primary and secondary school curricula and their teacher training and continuing professional development programmes. Teaching material has been produced in English, French and local languages. There is increasing awareness of the topic among many decision-makers. Island governments, representatives from authorities and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community are debating the issue and seeking appropriate solutions. The Secretariat has developed a regional climate portal to serve as a forum for states to share information and experiences.