Our Perspectives


For Pacific countries, tomorrow is too late to act on climate change

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Pacific countries have contributed little to global greenhouse gas emissions. Yet they are highly vulnerable to sea level rise and other impacts of climate change. Photo: UNDP Fiji

The drought caused by El Niño in Palau has essentially halted life for many Palauans since March. An increasing number of Tuvaluans are displaced by sea level rise, and 64 communities in Fiji will need to relocate in the coming years.

As a region, the Pacific has contributed little or nothing to global greenhouse gas emissions. Yet it is incomparably vulnerable to sea level rise, climate-induced ocean acidification, extreme weather events, and erratic precipitation and drought patterns.

We heard this sense of urgency repeated many times last month in Fiji, where Pacific countries met to discuss their climate change needs and learn how best to access funds to address them. Each Pacific country present at the meeting told a story of how one extreme climate event can easily wipe out 10 years of growth in one day.

Enter the Green Climate Fund (GCF) – a fund that aims to provide US$2.5 billion by the end of this year and $6 billion by mid-2017 to countries to tackle climate change. The Pacific is a priority region for the GCF and already $64 million has been allocated for two projects in Fiji and Tuvalu that will reduce vulnerabilities in coastal communities.

However, Pacific countries must overcome many hurdles to access the large sums needed to adapt to and mitigate climate change. For instance, the technical and human capacity of national institutions to plan for, access, deliver and monitor the funds is varied and often low. This is especially challenging in a region spread across large expanses of ocean, where transportation is difficult and the energy needed to fuel that transport is scarce.

Recognizing these challenges, Governments in the Pacific are now making use of “readiness” support offered by the Green Climate Fund. This support is designed to help countries strengthen their capacity to manage climate investments and financial resources. “Readiness” programmes will not only accelerate access to climate finance but also help refine climate programmes and support broader national development plans and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Optimism, eagerness to ‘get to work’, and enthusiasm for collaboration across countries and development partners took the stage at the GCF Pacific regional meeting. Referring to the spirit of mutual trust that framed the meeting, the GCF Board representative for Small Island Developing States, H.E. Aliioaiga Feturi, said “some partnerships are borne out of convenience while others are borne out of true mutual respect, concern and sincerity.”

We agree, and with such a solid foundation we are confident that their collective efforts can bear fruit for the goals of Pacific Island States to build resilience among their populations. Now is the time to take stock of the years of pilot-level work on climate policy and legislation as well as on-the-ground investments. Now is the time to scale up measures to strengthen the resilience of the most vulnerable populations.  Tomorrow is too late to act on climate change for Pacific countries.

Climate change and disaster risk reduction Climate change Climate finance Asia & the Pacific Blog post Estefanía Samper

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