Climate Security: a priority for Kiribati and the Pacific

March 10, 2021

Photo: UNDP

The correlation between climate change and human security is complex and multifaceted and intersects with political, social, environmental, economic, and demographic factors. The human security risks associated with climate-related disasters, however, are not a distant future scenario, but are already a reality for millions of people around the world, especially in those countries that are the most vulnerable to the consequences of climate change.

The Pacific region is one of the most affected by climate change, which is impacting Pacific island countries in a variety of ways, including increased average temperatures, saltwater intrusion and coastal erosion, sea level rise, and increased intensity of extreme weather events.

Climate-related critical issues in the Pacific include, among others:

  • Displacement and forced migration due to irreversible degradation of livelihoods, food sources and coastal erosion;
  • Increased social tensions linked to access to land and fisheries resources;
  • A decrease in national revenues that could affect the ability to mitigate the social impacts of climate change;
  • Challenges to the Blue Economy (particularly losses in fisheries and tourism revenue);
  • Food security and a decline in health and productivity due to local food source degradation;
  • Reduced coping capacity and vulnerability of at risk populations with successive and strengthened natural disasters;
  • Impacts of sea-level rise on the jurisdictions of neighboring Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS) with uncertainty on maritime zones and boundaries.

These and more climate related security risks faced by Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS) require urgent action to avoid reaching tipping points of irreversible consequences, which present existential threats for Pacific people and indeed the very existence of many small and low-lying atoll nations.

Photo: UNDP

Climate Security in the Pacific project

To face these challenges, the UN in the Pacific has launched the Climate Security Project, which  addresses these critical needs by providing capacity to Pacific countries, with a particular focus on Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and Tuvalu to assess and address their critical climate security challenges. Funded by the UN Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) – the UN’s financial instrument of first resort to sustain peace in countries and regions at risk or affected by security challenges, including caused by climate change – the project is implemented by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in partnership with the Governments of the three countries, which will also work in synergy with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and Coalition of low-lying Atoll Nations (CANCC).

Photo: UNDP

The two-year initiative represents the first multi-country project of its kind in the Pacific region and proposes concrete assessment and actions at all levels to tackle climate-related security risks. The Climate Security Project will focus on empowering the three low-lying atoll nations to address the security threats of climate change by strengthening the coordination, understanding, articulation and implementation of risk management strategies for key climate-related security risks. The project will also support Pacific island countries raise awareness on climate-security risks at the global level. It also aims to provide contributions to human security and sustaining peace and stability.

Inclusive consultation in Kiribati

In Kiribati, a nation comprised of 33 atolls which sit less than two meters above sea level, addressing climate security is about survival.

During its initiation phase, the Climate Security Project conducted inclusive consultations with the Office of the President and the Kiribati Network Expert Group (KNEG), a group comprised of all the Departments of Government and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) including representatives from disability, women, youth, health and local leaders groups.

Consultation session in Kiribati

The discussion focusses on the definition of Climate Security to the Kiribati context and the identification of the top priorities for the country under climate-security. Following the first meetings, it emerged that coastal erosion, water security and climate-related food security are the most urgent priorities to be addressed. The latter is especially a priority with regards to the improvement and enhancement of available and accessible local food products on the outer islands.

To address these climate security risks, UNDP will continue to work in close partnership with the Office of the President and the KNEG to formulate and prioritize interventions at the national and sub-national level over the next few weeks.

Photo: UNDP

For more information:

Martin F. Ras, Project Manager - Climate Security Project, UNDP Pacific Office, Fiji | Email:

Giulio Fabris, Communication and Advocacy Specialist - Climate Security Project, UNDP Pacific Office, Fiji | Email:

Tomwa Baitika Tehumu, UNDP National Coordinator - Climate Security Project, Kiribati | Email: