Climate change, variability and sea level change
Warming the atmosphere - the greenhouse effect
Heat from the sun passes through the atmosphere and warms the surface
of the Earth. Some of this heat is reflected back into outer space
through the atmosphere and some is retained, just like in a greenhouse.
It is this balance of absorption and reflection, known as the greenhouse
effect, that has kept the Earth's temperature stable for eons. Over
billions of years the Earth has developed a system that can absorb
and recycle the gases produced by natural process like plant and animal
respiration, volcanic eruptions and forest fires.
As oil and coal are burned the carbon they contain combines with oxygen
in the air to give off heat and produce carbon dioxide, and other gases.
As population increases and development spreads, more and more energy
is being used and ever-increasing volumes of carbon dioxide are being
generated. Since 1750, when written records were first kept, the global
concentration of carbon dioxide has increased by about 30%. Emissions
of methane and nitrous oxide, from fuel consumption, converting forest
to farmland, cultivation and fertilization of soils, production of
ruminant livestock and management of livestock manure, have increased
by roughly 131% and 17% in 250 years. However, carbon dioxide is the
main greenhouse gas.
The amounts of greenhouse gases that are being produced have exceeded
the Earth's ability to absorb them and they are accumulating in the
atmosphere. As they build up they trap more and more heat from the
sun inside the atmosphere. It is generally accepted that this build
up is one of the primary causes of an increase in the average temperature
of the Earth, which will eventually cause significant changes in the
One of the greatest challenges to sustainable development
in the 21st century is climate change. Climate change is a change in
weather" that a region experiences. By increasing the amount of
heat-trapping gases released, humankind has enhanced the warming capability
of the natural greenhouse effect. It is the human-induced enhanced
greenhouse effect that causes environmental concern.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that unless
drastic action is taken, global temperatures will continue to rise
and extreme events will become more frequent and intense. Most governments
in the world are making efforts to reduce the production of greenhouse
gases, even though fossil fuels will remain the mainstay of energy
production well into the 21st century and agriculture must produce
more and more food. Governments are also looking for ways to remove
the excess carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere, but the
amounts are so huge this may not be practical. This has serious implications
for the fragile and vulnerable islands of the Pacific, already witnessing
the negative impacts of climate change as sea levels rise.
The danger in the Pacific
Many Pacific islands are extremely vulnerable
to climate change, climate variability, and sea level rise and will
be among the first to suffer
the impacts of climate change and among the first to be forced to adapt
or abandon or relocate from their environment. The islands are low
lying or have coastal features and characteristics that make them particularly
vulnerable to climate change, variability and sea level change. In
addition to significant coastal impacts climate change will affect
biodiversity, soils and the water supplies of small islands. Most small
island states will find it extremely difficult to adaptation to these
changing conditions. The impacts will be felt for many generations
because of the small island states’ low adaptive capacity, high
sensitivity to external shocks and high vulnerability to natural disasters.
Failure to adapt to climate change now could lead to high social and
economic costs in the future. For the low lying atolls, the economic
disruption could be catastrophic, even to the extent of requiring population
relocation into other islands or increasing the number of people emigrating
from the islands. Some areas of coral reefs, may be so enfeebled by
overfishing that they may not be able to recover from bleaching events
in the future. Public pressure is mounting for action on adaptation.
There is growing community and government concern about the need to
reduce the islands' vulnerability and manage the risks posed by extreme
events and long-term change.
The Pacific response
Climate change is recognized as serious threat
in the region. The socio-economic, environmental, physical and cultural
will wreak on the region are of concern to a great range of stakeholders.
What makes the concern so urgent is the knowledge that there
is a window of opportunity to halt climate change, that it is economically
feasible to do so, yet actions by those most responsible for
climate change has been lacklustre at best.
The region has understood
the growing danger, and has taken steps, first of all by building
capacity. Regional and inter-regional cooperation
between island nations has been established. The activities in
the region have also been shaped against the backdrop of international
developments, such as the Bali Action Plan, further elaborated
the Bangkok Climate change talks. Some PICs have established nationally
funded climate change focal points, and have taken the necessary
to ensure continuity in their representation as well as in their
staff development and capacity building.
Key issues for the region
The region is taking action because of the
recognition of the dangers of climate change. It could be said that
the basic rationale is
to avoid the unmanageable and manage the unavoidable. However, there
is only so much that the region can do in isolation, given the
of the impacts faced and the lack of wherewithal to finance adaptation.
For PICs, the need for adaptation has become increasingly urgent.
Long-term climate change, including the increasing frequency
and severity of extreme events such as heat waves, high rainfall intensity
events, summer droughts, tropical cyclones, windstorms, storm
and El-Nino-like conditions are affecting the lives and livelihoods
of people in PICs. Coupled with overexploitation of resources,
increasing urbanization and population increase, the compounding
caused considerable and widespread damage and threatens development
in the region. For the low lying atolls, the likely economic
disruption could be catastrophic, even to the extent of requiring population
relocation into other islands or adding numbers to the Pacific
Diaspora, with the subsequent social and cultural disruption having
proportions. Failure to reduce vulnerability could also result
in loss of opportunities to manage risks in the future when the impacts
may be greater and time to consider options limited.
Today, roughly 1
million people live on coral islands worldwide, and many more millions
live on low-lying real estate vulnerable to the
rising waves. At risk are not just people, but unique human cultures,
born and bred in watery isolation. Faced with inundation, some
of these people are beginning to envision the wholesale abandonment
nations. These islands could be rendered uninhabitable by other
effects of climate change. Floods and rogue waves raise the saltwater
underlying the atolls, poisoning the staple crops of our atoll
societies. Already some farmers have been forced to grow their taro
in tin containers,
and already some of the smaller islands in the atolls have lost
their coconut palms to saltwater intrusion.
Since the impacts of climate
change will be varied from country to country, comprehensive national
strategies and action plans, supported
by regional and international technical and financial services,
will have to be developed. Mainstreaming of climate change in national
sustainable development policies will be crucial, given that climate
so many if not all vital sectors of the Pacific economies. A good
start has been made in the PICs with the country-team approach
Communications as well as towards the various GEF climate change
projects. Such country teams require being institutionalised and
at an appropriate
level so as to be able to influence decision-making.
The priorities for
the region continues to be adaptation primarily, but there are
also country specific issues and particular community
needs. Mitigating greenhouse gas emissions has also been given
political importance, from the point of view of the international
but also from the perspective of fuel economy, energy independence
and employment. There is also the recognized need to improve the
climate change governance in the region, to establish practical working
and partnerships, and to improve the climate change knowledge base
in the region.
The Pacific Island Leaders adopted the Pacific Islands
Framework for Action (PIFACC) 2006-2015 in 2005 and SPREP was
directed to develop
an Action Plan to implement PIFACC, by establishing a set
of national and regional activities that would meet the key principles
The PCCR will have a monitoring and evaluation function,
its other tasks, and will therefore allow PICTs to gauge
the degree to which national and regional actions have met those key
It is envisaged that there will be yearly meetings of PCCR
and that it will select specific themes to focus on each year to
particular attention to gaps, challenges as well as successes
This will provide yearly opportunities to prioritise those
areas where little progress has been made and to establish which
may have been met. Some principles may have to be revisited
in future years.
In this sense the PCCR meetings can be viewed as
stand-alone events in a continuum of PIFACC activities, while at the
same time contributing
to the overall achievement of climate change resilience in the Pacific
Objectives of the roundtable:
- · To help update the PICTs on regional and international
actions undertaken in support of the Framework and Action Plan;
finalize a matrix to provide a clear overview of ongoing and planned
activities at the national and regional levels, with responsible
agencies or entities, and agree on mechanisms for measuring progress, identifying
difficulties, and addressing actions needing special attention;
assist donors in gaining an understanding of climate change initiatives
in the region and allow for better targeted assistance to areas
in the Action Plan where there are gaps;
- To share lessons learned from best practices
in the implementation of climate change programmes;
- To engage a wide
range of stakeholders and regional organizations;
- To provide an opportunity
to prepare for international meetings of the UNFCCC; and
- To disseminate
information on new and existing funding modalities and opportunities.
In order to meet these objectives participants will be expected
to provide information to SPREP for inclusion in a matrix, to be
developed by SPREP, of regional and international activities so that
itself will allow for updating of all parties on actions undertaken
in support of the Framework and Action Plan. Participants will be
invited to provide views on the matrix to help finalize it. Participants,
particular donors, will thus be assisted in understanding the overall
picture of what activities are occurring through discussion of the
contents of the matrix. SPREP will seek to obtain information from
participants and project implementers so as to structure a discussion
on best practices as well as areas with less success. Information
received in advance of the meeting will determine the manner and extent
the various objectives will be featured in the agenda.
The region has
also recognized the need to mainstream climate change with other sustainable
development activities. The Secretariat has
therefore initiated a mainstreaming exercise with other CROP agencies
aimed at reaching a common understanding of 'mainstreaming' and its
methodology. An agreed joint CROP-wide program on mainstreaming, including
roles and responsibilities and an indicative budget has also been agreed
with a timeline for the implementation of mainstreaming programs for
Regional mitigation activities
The region has minuscule emissions of
GHGs on a global scale, even if looked at from a per capita emissions
basis. The transportation
sector in the PICs has grown rapidly in recent years while about
70% of PIC populations don't have access to electricity so emissions
are expected to grow in the future, as the transportation sector
continues to grow and Governments seek to improve the livelihoods
of the communities. Also, there are significant inefficiencies
in the current power generation and transmission systems in the
with losses calculated to around 30% of production. There are
therefore opportunities for mitigation in the current energy mix and
sustainable growth in energy production and access that does
not increase the region's carbon footprint.
The Pacific Islands Greenhouse
Gas Abatement through Renewable Energy Project (PIGGAREP) is a GEF-funded
five-year regional GHG mitigation
project that started in 2007. Eleven PICs are participating in the
PIGGAREP. The PIGGAREP aims to remove the technical, institutional,
financial, market, policy and awareness barriers to the widespread
and productive utilisation of feasible renewable energy technologies
in the PICs. These are to be carried through various national activities
like resources assessments, feasibility studies, rehabilitation of
existing renewable energy systems and the installations of new ones,
various training and awareness programmes, the formulation and adoption
of new policies and legislations and through various partnerships with
donors, banks and agencies working on renewable energy in the region.
The PIGGAREP aims to reduce the GHG emissions by 33% under the business-as-usual
scenario by 2015.
But energy efficiency also has economic and social
benefits that often have been overlooked in the past. The increasing
cost of fuel is impacting
heavily upon lives in the Pacific, and the impact of this rising cost
is transmitted through every aspect of daily lives. The electricity
tariff has increased by about 20% in Tonga. RMI is currently in a state
of economic emergency. The Solomon Islands government recently contributed
US$400,000 to avoid the repeated power shutdowns at Honiara. Bus owners
demanded a fare increase in Fiji. The price for a burger at McDonalds
has gone up and Pacific Blue has just announced the introduction of
a new extra baggage fee. Now, more than ever, is the need for renewable
energy sources and improved energy efficiency becoming more of a reality.
oil crisis of 1973 and 1979 drew the attention of some Pacific Islands
to invest on renewable energy. We have witnessed the impacts.
More than half of the electricity generated in Fiji and Samoa were
from renewable sources of energy. But this share is slowly eroding
because the renewable energy momentum has not kept up with the increasing
demand for energy. Just imagine what it would be like, if 35 years
ago the whole region was consistently working towards utilising its
rich renewable energy potentials.
The key energy problem in the PICs
is the heavy reliance on the imported, expensive and polluting fossil
fuel. A fossil fuel energy path is not
a sustainable one. Getting cheaper oil prices are therefore short to
medium measures. Renewable energy is a medium to long-term measure.
We invest on it now for the many crises that are yet to come. This
week the Fiji Cabinet approved an electricity tariff increase of 1
cent per unit. This increase will be used for the construction of the
Nadarivatu Hydro Power project where hundreds of new jobs will be created
during its construction but also diesel cost savings as a result of
a reduction in diesel imports.
It is interesting to note the current
commitments to renewable energy in the region. The Fiji Electricity
Authority has a vision of becoming
a renewable energy power utility by 2011. The power utility in Vanuatu
(UNELCO) has a target of generating 25% of its electricity from renewables
by 2020. Samoa aims to increase the current share of renewable energy
by 20% by 2030. Tonga has just announced a US$50 million that will
generation 50% of the country's electricity from renewable sources
of energy in the next three years.
It is appropriate for PICs to take
measures now and make the long-term commitments to pursue a Renewable
Energy path and then work with development
partners to try and utilize the vast potential that the region has
for renewable energy. Renewable Energy should not be taken as a reactive
measure to the rising costs of fuel as it is well known that a fossil
fuel energy path is not a sustainable one. A visionary concept like
a Pacific Fossil Fuel Free Future or P4F is therefore not a bad starting
point. The international negotiations on Climate Change offer avenues
where assistance can be provided to the region's renewable energy developments.
The tidal, wave and OTEC energy that could be derived from our vast
ocean remains virtually untouched and should be an area that PICs should
raise as a priority for research, monitoring and development.
Growing evidence of climate change impacts in
the region has been documented for many years. Various initiatives
have been started
to assist the
region assess and document vulnerabilities and to find solutions
that are acceptable to the local communities. This requires an
approach that combines awareness raising and training, as well
building within institutions and for personnel. Much more needs
to be done however, and building on past experiences the region
commence implementation of a regional project that will introduce
adaptation options in the areas of water resources management,
food security and coastal zone management and infrastructure.
Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change Project (PACC) is a regional
project focusing on climate change adaptation. It is one of the few
projects globally to access the Special Climate Change Fund of the
GEF. In the April session of the GEF Council, the PACC Project Inception
Form was approved which secures USD13.125 million of adaptation funding
to the region. The objective of the PACC is to enhance the resilience
of a number of key development sectors (food production and food security,
water resources management, coastal zone, infrastructure etc.) in the
Pacific islands to the adverse effects of climate change. This objective
will be achieved by focusing on long-term planned adaptation response
measures, strategies and policies. To ensure sustainability of the
project, regional and national adaptation financing instruments will
also be developed.
Thirteen Pacific Island Countries (PICs) will take
part in the PACC project. They are as follows: i) Cook Islands; ii)
of Micronesia; iii) Fiji; iv) Marshall Islands; v) Nauru; vi) Niue;
vii) Palau; viii) Papua New Guinea; ix) Samoa x) Solomon Islands; xi)
Tonga; xii) Tuvalu; and, xiii) Vanuatu. Kiribati currently has a national
adaptation project and did not wish to be part of the regional project.
climate change science activities
The main programme in the region
is the Pacific Islands Global Climate Observation System (PI-GCOS).
In addition to work on adaptation
in the region, serious gaps exist in the scientific and meteorological
work that the region requires in order to address climate change
and climate variability and predict extreme events.
to interest from the regions, WMO embarked on work to assist SIDS
in all regions to access the GCOS network. In the Pacific
PI-GCOS has been in existence since 2002 with a steering committee
forming its Action Plan and Implementation Plan.
Under the latter, a list of 31 projects were identified (with initial
indicative budgets) to meet needs in areas ranging from research
and policy development, to technical capacity building in observation
networks and enhancement of operational early warning systems.
main achievements to date have been the enhancement of the capacity
in nine PICs in seasonal climate prediction, the rescue and management
of historical climate data and improvement of access to data, as well
as a marked improvement in the maintenance and increased output from
GCOS identified GUAN and GSN stations in the Pacific. These achievements
have been undertaken also in ways that have built local capacities
in consideration also of the need for sustainability and appropriateness
of these works.
It is a major contributor thus to cooperation and partnership
for climate change work particularly in taking stock of, and supporting,
the technical and scientific level needs for climate information and
applications. At its formative meetings in 2000-2003 the then PI-GCOS
Steering Committee decided to prepare project proposals with concrete
and achievable targets, and with full budgets. These include pilot
projects assessing the impacts of climate variability and change on
ocean and island ecosystems, expansion and enhancement of climate prediction,
along with operational training programmes to incorporate some of the
new knowledge gained from this research within national climate centres
of PICs. Unfortunately, the large majority of the most key projects
identified have not received funding and this remains a major barrier
for work in the region.
The Implementation Plan reaffirms that PI-GCOS
is intended to be a long term, user driven operational system capable
of providing the
comprehensive observations required for monitoring the climate system,
for detecting and attributing climate change, for assessing the impacts
of climate variability and change, and for supporting research toward
improved understanding, modelling and prediction of the climate system.
Its nesting within the climate change programme of SPREP ensures that
the gaps in scientific knowledge and information in this area are addressed
and that it provides and builds linkages across to other areas of efforts
in climate change.
Financing of climate change activities
At the international level most climate change financing has come
through the GEF. In past years this was largely limited to enabling
for fulfilling the reporting requirement under the FCCC. The
establishment of the LDC Fund and the Special Climate Change Fund
to the opportunities for financing. However, political considerations
initially limited the outflow of resources from these funds.
The 5 PIC LDCS have now all accessed their National Adaptation
of Action (NAPA) funding from the LDCF and the reports have been
Within the NAPA each country has identified projects that are
eligible for funding. Samoa was the first to seek funding for implementation
of some of these projects, but a lack of resources within the
will create a backlog.
All future disbursements under the GEF will
be handled under the GEF-PAS, which makes available to the region
over $30 million for adaptation
and $14 million for mitigation initiatives over the next 4 years.
Operationally this will create greater predictability for GEF resources
but it may
not increase the overall funding availability. However, the possibilities
for additional co-financing and leveraging of funds should not be
As mentioned, a NAPA process has been available for the
PICs that are LDCs, funded under the GEF LDC Fund and with technical
from the LDC Expert Group. Other PICs have seen the benefit of this
support and have called for a similar activity to be made available
to non-LDC SIDS. At the recent FCCC subsidiary bodies meeting an agreement
was reached that in principle approves such a process. However, the
details such as financing and sourcing of technical support need to
be worked out. If this support was to be disbursed on a bilateral basis,
then action can occur fairly soon. However, if the GEF is to be involved
a decision on GEF guidance must be taken at COP-14 in Poznan followed
by acceptance by the GEF Council, which could delay action until mid-2009.
There may therefore be a need to develop a concept paper for submission
to interested donors.
The Secretariat recently submitted a series of
climate change adaptation project concepts to AusAID, in order to benefit
from the recently announced
Australian adaptation funding. This funding will also be available
to the PICs on a bilateral basis.
The Secretariat has also secured funding
from the EC to build capacity for Multilateral Environment Agreement,
and a key part of that project
will be the Climate Change Convention. There are further opportunities
for financing climate change projects under other EC funds. The Secretariat
is also working with other UN agencies to access capacity building
funds for adaptation.
What is SPREP doing?
For more information on specific SPREP climate-related
activities and initiatives, visit SPREP's
Climate Change Portal.