Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management

“As one Blue Pacific region, we have built solidarity through collective action and one voice in the global arena. So has been our strong advocacy on climate change and its impacts on our island homes, our people, our environment and indeed our future generations. We are at the forefront of the impacts of climate change. The devastating impacts of cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis in recent years, have resulted in enormous losses for our smaller island economies which have taken decades to build. However, it does not stop there. Increasing sea-levels diminish the land that we live on; increasing the salinity of our water that impacts on our food security; and the disappearance of our land could threaten our very sovereignty.” – Honourable Baron Divavesi Waqa, President of Nauru, November 2017

Climate change and increased exposure to disasters are two significant issues that are increasingly affecting the people of the Pacific.

The Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has indicated that there will be more intense weather related disasters detrimental to human lives and infrastructure, severe droughts and flooding, issues with food and water security, and ocean acidification which may lead to coral reef damages and alteration to fisheries distribution and migratory patterns. With business as usual, the world is taking a path to global temperature increase of around 4 degrees Celsius by 2100. The survival of several Pacific smaller islands developing states can only be safeguarded if there is concerted global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to maintain the temperature increase below 1.5 degree Celsius.

The Pacific Islands region is one of the most at risk regions in the world from natural hazards. The World Risk Report in 2015 has identified the Pacific has having four of the top ten most at risk nations in the world, including the top two most at risk globally.

As a consequence, Pacific Small Island Developing States are disproportionately exposed to shocks, especially through economic and extreme weather events. Most are categorized as ‘vulnerable’ or ‘extremely vulnerable’ on United Nations Environment Programme’s Environmental Vulnerability Index. Most have economies that depend on a narrow economic base relaying on agriculture, fisheries or tourism, few sources of new revenue and investment and are subject to supply side shocks (such as changes oil and food prices).

One single event can undo decades of progress – for instance Cyclone Evan in Samoa in 2012 was estimated to have cost 30% of GDP. Damages from Cyclone Pam last year cost Vanuatu over USD 450 million, while costs of damage from Cyclone Winston in Fiji was almost FJD 2 billion.

Finance is arguably the most pressing concern to enable actions on the ground. Pacific Islands Forum Leaders have continuously stressed the critical requirement for improved access to adequate financing to effectively respond to urgent and immediate needs to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and disaster risk in vulnerable Forum Island Countries.

Many sources of financing exist but understanding the specific criteria and progressing through the application process is usually complex, time consuming and costly. Many development partners are increasingly providing support to ‘blended finance’ facilities that require additional funding to leverage access to these funds. This presents an additional challenge to PICs that already face difficulties in engaging in a complicated and diverse global financial environment to source extra “seed” funding.

In response, the region is taking a global lead in dealing with the policy issues of climate and disaster resilience through the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific, a regional strategy which advocates an integrated approach to Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management and low carbon development.

Resilience refers to an area of development that seeks to support the broader sustainable development agenda. In particular, resilience refers to climate changes, disaster risk management and low carbon development.

These areas are encapsulated in the three goals of the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific. The Forum is seeking to progress the following activities to support its agreed outputs and outcomes:

  • Progressing the decisions made under the Paris Agreement and successive COPs with a specific focus on climate finance issues.
  • Supporting Fiji’s COP23 Presidency by ensuring that the priorities of the Pacific are promoted.
  • Implementation of the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific, the Pohnpei Statement: Strengthening Pacific Resilience to Climate Change and Disaster Risk and the establishment of the Pacific Resilience Partnership.

The Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (2016) is a voluntary non-political framework that supports coordination and action on a number of key issues related to climate change and disaster risk management in the region.

The Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific aims to guide and promote coordinated and integrated priorities and approaches for regional, national and community levels that embed risk considerations into sustainable development which ultimately leads to development outcomes that are resilient to climate change and disaster risks.

The FRDP presents holistic guidance for the development of communities of practice, projects and programmes.

The FRDP advocates for two types of integration:

  • Integrated actions to address climate change and disasters, whenever possible. This guidance recognises the clear overlap between climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction where there are similar tools and resources required to monitor, analyse and address climate and disaster risks. Many Pacific Island Countries and Territories have started taking concrete steps to manage these risks in a more integrated manner. An integrated approach can reduce duplication and optimise use of limited resources and sharing of technical expertise.
  • The Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific advocates for more effective mainstreaming of action to address climate change and disaster risks into development planning including policy making, planning, financing, programming and implementation which includes building resilience into governance structures and processes, partnerships, communications and financing. Climate change and disaster risks are cross-cutting thematic priorities and action must also take place at the sectoral level. It is essential to mainstream action to build resilience into development sectors such as health, education, water and sanitation, and agriculture.

The Framework takes an all-stakeholder approach as building resilience is everyone’s business. It provides guidance of relevance to a broad range of stakeholders including national and subnational governments and administrations, civil society, communities, the private sector, regional organisations and development partners.

The Framework is also closely aligned to implementing global agreements such as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change 2015, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015- 2030, the Small Islands Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action (S.A.M.O.A) Pathway 2014, the Sustainable Development Agenda 2015- 2030 and the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 – to help build a more sustainable and safer region.

The Pacific Resilience Partnership translates the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific from policy to action. The Partnership brings together a variety of stakeholder groups and communities of practice on climate change, disaster risk management and sustainable development, to share experiences and lessons learned; harmonize approaches; and, collaborate more closely in order to work toward and achieve the shared, collective goal of building climate and disaster resilience in the Pacific.

The Forum Secretariat’s role in climate change and disaster risk management is specifically related to coordination, high level political advocacy and provision of policy support to Forum Island Countries to improve their access to, and management of, climate change and disaster risk finance. As a result, the Forum Secretariat has undertaken a multi-tiered and multi-stakeholder approach in progressing this work, together with CROP agencies including Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the University of the South Pacific (USP) and the Pacific Community (SPC), and partners including United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), European Union (EU), Australia, Germany (GIZ), USAID, World Bank and Asian Development Bank. This collective effort has been focused on identifying and coordinating regional and international funding to support national responses to climate change.

The Forum Secretariat sees the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific as the overarching framework that will enable and support better coordination, collaboration and advocacy on key regional climate change and disaster management issues including on climate finance. The vehicle for this will be the Pacific Resilience Partnership.

At present the Forum Secretariat is pursuing two specific outcomes:

  • Improved risk resilience as a result of greater coordination of partners.
  • Forum Island Countries have access to appropriate climate change finance for related damage and loss.

These are the current work priorities that will help achieve these outcomes.

  • Through analysis provide Forum Island Countries with better information about the various mechanisms and modalities available to access to climate change and disaster risk financing.
  • Improve CROP and development partner coordination, collaboration and cooperation in climate change and disaster risk management resulting in a reduction of overlap and increased efficiencies and effectiveness.
  • Inform and identify the challenges of PICs in assessing climate and disaster finance by using the Pacific Climate Change Finance Assessment Framework and following up on relevant recommendations being implemented with the support of CROP, donors and partners.
  • Assist SIS members in the development of a specific climate change finance proposal.