Climate Positive Action in the Pacific
By Brad Phillips and Sabrina Habu
Rising sea temperatures, extreme weather events, coastal flooding and erosion, food security pressures, coral bleaching and degradation are just some of the consequences of climate change affecting all Pacific nations. Pacific nations contribute as little as 0.03 percent to global greenhouse gas levels yet are the most at risk to the impact of climate change and the flow on social and economic implications. In this article we are shining the light on the work being done in the Pacific to mitigate climate change by providing some examples of projects throughout the Pacific that are leading the fight against climate change and its related effects.
Solomon Islands – Tina River Hydro Development Project
The Tina River Hydro Development Project is a National project of Solomon Islands, under the guide of the Ministry of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification. The project aims to move Solomon Islanders away from their reliance on diesel power, enabling the Solomon Islands to exceed its 2025 greenhouse gas emissions target by two and a half times. The project is financed by the Australian Infrastructure Faculty for the Pacific, the Government of Australia, the International Development Fund, the Green Climate Fund, the Economic Development Compensation Fund, the Asian Development Bank and the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development.
Marshall Islands – Addressing Climate Vulnerability in the Water Sector (ACWA Project)
The ACWA Project, led by the Government of the Marshall Islands with the support of the Green Climate Fund is an adaptation project aimed at reducing the potential impact of climate change on the country’s drinking water supplies – which are concentrated in vulnerable areas on the small, low-lying island atolls of the Marshalls and which are highly susceptible to rising sea levels. The ACWA Project plans to mitigate the impact of climate change by improving household and community rainwater harvesting and storage structures, as well as securing groundwater resources from seawater intrusion.
Fiji – The World Bank’s Country Partnership Framework
There is no more ominous warning of the effects of climate-induced disaster on Pacific nations and their economies than what the island nation of Fiji has been experiencing in recent years. Over the course of 2020, Fiji experienced both Cyclone Harold and Yasa, alongside the impacts of COVID-19. In support of Fiji, the World Bank has announced a Country Partnership Framework aimed at bolstering the Fijian economy and strengthening fiscal, climate and social resilience. The Partnership, amongst other things, aims to increase Fiji’s resilience to climate-induced disasters by enabling access to disaster funds, improving emergency planning, and assisting in the development of a sustainable Blue Economy.
Tonga – Towards Climate Change Resilient Coastal Fisheries and Aquaculture Tonga
Like other Pacific nations, Tonga is reliant on its coastal fisheries and related aquaculture sectors for food security for its people. As such, the Green Climate Fund, in tandem with the Tongan Government and The Pacific Community (who are the principal scientific and technical organisation in the Pacific region) are working on strengthening the Tongan economy’s resilience against climate change – through a project adequately titled “Towards Climate Change Resilient Coastal Fisheries and Aquaculture Tonga”. The Project seeks to increase the resilience of Tonga’s coastal fisheries and aquaculture sectors by, amongst other things, improving community-based fisheries/aquaculture management, enhancing local livelihood resilience, and strengthening governance as well as improving institutional and policy frameworks.
Vanuatu – Supporting Climate Resilient Water Security for Rural Communities
With climate change influencing severe weather events, such as intense cyclones, extreme rainfall, changes in ENSO oscillation, increased air temperature and rising sea levels (GreenClimate, 2021), the country’s water systems will endure physical damage from seawater intrusion and bacterial contamination if no preventative measures are taken. If such events continue, rural communities within Vanuatu will be vulnerable to these effects. To minimise such risks, the Green Climate Fund has approved ‘Project Preparation’, to support climate resilient water security for rural communities across Vanuatu. This will be achieved by ‘enhancing community-based planning and adaption for climate-resilient water management, developing climate-resilient rural water infrastructure, and creating an enabling environment at provincial and national level to better address climate risks associated with water security (GreenClimate, 2021).
Samoa – Partnership with Conservation International and Blue Prosperity Coalition
The ocean is a vital centre of life and culture for Samoa – with its protection necessary for the country’s future. As such, the Government of Samoa officially launched the Samoa Ocean Strategy on October 16, 2020. The project commits to protecting 30% of their ocean area (36,000km2) by 2025, with a strategic plan to sustainably manage its entire ocean domain (120,000km2) in the future. As supported by Conversation International, this strategy provides long term goals and objectives toward sustainable ocean management, with the core of this aimed at sustainable development, conservation, traditional knowledge, collaboration, science, and food security (Conversation International, 2020).
Papua New Guinea – Climate Change Action Plan with Australia
PNG and Australia have agreed on a Climate Change Action Plan, that acknowledges their mutual commitment to addressing climate change risks. Significantly, Australia has committed to its continual support to PNG in regards to enhancing the capacity of PNG’s Government institutions to implement climate change policies and access international financing, that will assist in strengthening the resilience of rural communities and the construction of climate smart infrastructure.
As global temperatures inch closer to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the risk of dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate rises with it. If the world does not act quickly, the majority of projects in the Pacific will be heavily focussed on mitigation rather than adaptation, as Pacific nations attempt to adapt to an ever-changing climate that is being caused by the “developed” world. Pacific Legal Network has a long history of working on projects aimed at alleviating risks posed by climate change and other environmental issues and is accredited by the Green Climate Fund as an observer organisation.