Opinion: Responding in the Pacific to a warming planet

The Pacific Islands need to look for Pacific solutions to global warming, according to Dame Meg Taylor DBE, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.  She outlines some of the steps being taken by the Forum to achieve greater resilience.

Global warming may lead to higher sea levels. Source: Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

The repercussions of a warming planet are increasing both in intensity and in frequency. This is the case whether they are extreme, sudden, or slow onset weather and climate events. Either way, they demand nothing less than innovative actions, and strengthened collaboration and cooperation of all stakeholders.

Dame Meg Taylor

Key to how our region responds to climate change and extreme weather events and their impacts on our island homes and our resources is the nature and extent of our resilience.

It requires Pacific Islands Forum members to invest in pathways towards economic, social, and environmental resilience.

It requires our Governments to complement their respective approaches with input and contributions from development partners, including the private sector, who are key to resource mobilisation and to implementation.

‘There is a gap in direct investment for building resilience.’

It also requires civil society to play a key role, to ensure effective links between policies and practice are well established and they endure.

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However, there is a gap in direct investment for building resilience, despite global research findings which claim that a country can save US$7 in response and recovery for every US$1 spent upfront on building resilience to extreme events.

Resilience

Realising resilience dividends requires that we invest in innovative approaches, and the mobilisation of both public and private funding—now and into the future.

As signatories to global instruments such as the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, which provide the mandate and guidance for work relating to resilience, there is scope and opportunities for Forum members to explore the potential of public and private investment in climate change and disaster risk prevention and reduction, through structural and non-structural measures.

These are essential to enhance the economic, social, health and cultural resilience of persons, communities, countries and their assets, as well as the environment.

So it is not by accident that, in September 2016, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders endorsed the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP), which integrates climate change, disaster risk management and low carbon development considerations into resilient development in the Pacific.

Coordinating efforts to build resilient communities and countries for our people, through innovations such as the FRDP, is ground breaking but its implementation and securing the means of implementation is crucial and necessary.

‘Blue Pacific’

Since then, regional ownership and commitment of our development aspirations and approaches to achieving these have been affirmed through the ‘Blue Pacific’ identity, which focuses attention on our geography, our resources, and our identity.

The intent of the last month’s Forum Economic and Finance Ministers (FEMM) meeting was to strengthen Pacific ownership by exploring Pacific solutions to Pacific issues.

Tabled for consideration was the proposed Pacific Resilience Facility (PRF), which seeks to provide an integrated regional risk financing solution to build a resilient Blue Pacific through retrofitting and risk-proofing public and private infrastructure assets.

‘A second proposal for consideration is a Pacific Island Countries’ Climate Insurance Facility for Smaller Islands States.’

More specifically, the PRF has four strategic objectives, which are:

  1. strengthening of the collective financial resilience of Forum Island Countries;
  2. providing cost-efficient and contextualised financing options for resilient development;
  3. strengthening strategic partnerships with key donor and development partners; and
  4. encouraging capacity development in national disaster risk budgeting and financing.

Insurance products

A second proposal for consideration is a Pacific Island Countries’ Climate Insurance Facility for Smaller Islands States’ (SIS), which aims to develop regional climate risk insurance products that would assist countries in dealing with the effects of climate change.

The Climate Insurance Facility proposes to provide alternative protection mechanisms, which can be made available to help offset the financial burdens of the impact of climate change on individuals, communities, governments and donors in post-loss, recovery and reconstruction phases.

It seeks to address a variety of slow onset and extreme weather events that are currently not covered or being addressed by existing risk financing instruments.

Effective partnerships are critical for success and this FEMM saw Ministers engaging with a diverse range of stakeholders including key donors, development partners, private sector and civil society.

Forum Leaders continue to encourage donors and partners to the region to align their resources to the Forum agenda, and consequently tasked FEMM to hold the inaugural FEM/Donors and Partners Roundtable as part of the FEMM in Palau.

Minsters also considered policies related to private sector involvement in national and regional climate change adaptation approaches, and the role of regional superannuation and provident funds to finance regional infrastructure needs.

For inclusive, resilient progress to be made, our peoples must remain central to any of our regional deliberations, if we are to achieve as the Blue Pacific bloc the global dream that no one is left behind.

Dame Meg Taylor is Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

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