Climate change in the Pacific: a strong start for a long journey

Aug 12, 2014

Mafalu Lotolua from Tuvalu won the first prize and received the award from UNDP Resident Representative, Ms Lizbeth Cullity. Photo credit: SPREP.

The final annual review meetings for two regional climate change initiatives, the Pacific Islands Greenhouse Gas Abatement through Renewable Energy Project (PIGGAREP) and the Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change project (PACC), were held between 28 July and 1 August in Nadi, Fiji.  More than forty representatives from fifteen Pacific island countries met to discuss the progress, results, challenges and lessons learned from these projects, both of which are scheduled to close in December 2014.

PIGGAREP has been focused on mitigating greenhouse gases emissions, and removing barriers to the increased use of renewable energy and energy-efficient technology. Amongst the many positive results discussed at the review meeting, one of the most significant has been attracting donors to invest in feasibility studies for local renewable energy projects. These studies have, in turn, proven instrumental in unlocking larger funding sources for projects across the Pacific Island countries – with examples ranging from biofuel in Kiribati to solar power in Niue and hydropower in Samoa.

The PACC project has been focused on improving coastal management, water management and food/agricultural practices in light of a changing climate and environmental degradation. As participants at the review meeting heard, this initiative has also yielded many exemplary results, such as climate-proofing key infrastructure like coastal roads, which are particularly vulnerable in small island states; improved water management; and water security through better reservoir, storage and catchment facilities, as well as through the use of solar water purifiers.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) has been managing these projects since 2008 and 2009, with the Secretariat for the Regional Pacific Environment Programme (SPREP) acting as implementation partner in fifteen Pacific island countries.

Welcoming participants to the review meeting, SPREP Director Dr. Netatua Pelesikoti says “a collective commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions sends a clear message that island nations are treating climate change with the seriousness which it deserves.”

 Participants at the review meeting in Nadi, Fiji. Photo credit: SPREP.

Other participants – including the national project coordinators responsible for country-specific programme implementation – shared the challenges and the lessons learned. Some key takeaways included the importance of extensive community consultation in the design phase of the projects; the need for more concrete support in communicating results; the advantages of clear and simple design for project activities and outcomes; and a recommendation for deeper government involvement in coordinating development projects within the same sector.

In the concluding note, the representatives from participating countries expressed a clear interest in extending the work of both projects; the region still faces enormous climate change challenges, with a great deal of work remaining to be done. Future programmes will be able to build on the work started through PACC and PIGGAREP and draw on the lessons learned from their years of implementation, rather than re-inventing or investing in completely new initiatives. Together, the two projects have established an invaluable set of proven tools and interventions for building a more resilient Pacific region.

Lizbeth Cullity, UNDP Resident Representative to Samoa, highlighted the importance of using the opportunity presented by the review for rigorous evaluation. “It is so important that we dedicate time to looking at the building blocks that have been laid through PIGGAREP and examine them critically so that this work can pave the way for future activities to support island nations to transition to low carbon economies,” she says.
Finally, the implementing agencies organized a human interest story competition among the implementing partner countries to help promote the groundwork of the project. Mafalu Lotolua from Tuvalu won the first prize for producing some entertaining video footage of solar energy installations, supported by PIGGAREP, on the outer island of Tuvalu.

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