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Keynote address by SG Tuiloma Neroni Slade at Climate Change workshop

Responding to Climate Change in the Pacific:
Moving from Strategy to Action
Nadi, Fiji, 12-13 October 2010


Address by Tuiloma Neroni Slade
Secretary General, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat


The Regional Director
Asian Development Bank, Mr Keith Leonard
Distinguished participants
Colleagues

First, may I thank the Asian Development Bank for the very kind invitation to provide a keynote statement at this important Regional Workshop, an occasion which presents for us all, a timely opportunity to consolidate ideas on the many complexities about climate change and what this means for our Pacific region.

In doing so, I want to start with an overview of the historical meanderings of an issue so global and so challenging in character, one often defined by the interests and prescriptions of so many and disparate stakeholders. It is important to gain a good understanding of the multifaceted complexities so that we can focus attention on deploying effective interventions. The fact is that viewed through different lenses, be they political, economic, social or environmental, climate change priorities will vary, and vary considerably. There is need for improved connectivity in all such viewpoints and, more critically, as I would imagine is the true purpose of this gathering, so that there is coordinated, collaborative and effective approaches to implementation.

Historical overview of climate change

The perception of climate change over the past 20 years has evolved significantly, as have the mechanisms and institutions focusing on this issue. Remember that the Framework Convention on Climate Change aims to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. It was in many ways the acknowledgment of a possible scenario yet to be quantified and, even if so quantified, there was no global experience to determine a fix.

Efforts in the 1990s in the first decade of the Convention were very much focused on the science: the degree to which climate change might be happening; if, and by how much, anthropogenic activities were interfering with this system; and the possible resulting impacts. This was work significantly driven by the environmental science sector, with little attention to the economic costs. Coupled with political denial, this process dragged on for some time. Not until the early part of this decade was proper attention paid to adaptation needs, and then still with much rhetoric and little definition or action.

The global acknowledgement that climate change is unequivocal and attributable to anthropogenic interference has come slowly, but at least now, especially with the IPCC 4th Assessment Report and the Stern Report, we have solid estimates of the economic and environmental impacts. This, of course, was a significant triumph against the denial and smoke and mirrors of much of the industrial community driven by serious dependency on fossil fuel.

There is now global transformation, in perception and attitude, among the development sectors and industrialised countries that meaningful and measurable change must occur and relatively quickly as all countries are being subjected to climate change impacts. There, too, is the general acknowledgement of a world already committed to a significant level of climate change and thus response measures must be deployed with urgency and with particular focus on the protection and adaptation of the most vulnerable.
And so, a major challenge confronting counties today is to find ways to change. To transform economies from over-dependence on fossil fuel, to using energy more efficiently, developing renewable energy sources and diffusing technology without comprising economic growth in the near and long term. This is critical for securing meaningful mitigation efforts as well, as it is for long term sustainable economic growth and development.
These developments in the later part of this decade have moved the climate change issue firmly from an environmental sector onto the ultimate responsibility of political Leaders of all counties, and of central line agencies of economic planning and finance. They are developments which demand the engagement and response of economic, development and social sectors to play more involved roles in tackling climate change mitigation and adaptation at all levels.

It would seem however that the respective policy and institutional machinery at the global, regional and individual country levels have been slow to reflect this evolution, creating governance and institutional imbalances.
Current governance and institutional imbalances at all levels

At the global level, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) is still charged largely with catalytic financing for mitigation activities, many that require huge investments in infrastructure and technology. Looking forward over the next 10 years: how much money does the GEF have to facilitate this mammoth task? Is this task still relevant and what will be the role of development banks and other international climate change mechanisms? How are the Climate Investment Fund, the Adaptation Fund, the World Bank Carbon Finance Unit and the Clean Development Mechanism to relate to the fast start funding pledged at Copenhagen, including in terms of loans versus grants? It is a complicated picture evolving over time depending on the issues most prominent under the Climate Change Convention process with influences from other global crises and decisions of the G8 and G20.

At the regional level, the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) has continually been tasked with leading support for negotiations and coordination of climate change activities in the Pacific region with little funding for this work. Technical CROP agencies such as the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the regional Geo-science Commission SOPAC with expertise in disaster preparedness, energy, agriculture, fisheries, water and all the key sectors requiring significant efforts towards effective adaptation do not have significant access to climate change funding to effectively carry out and complete their work. Pacific political leaders in recent years are beginning to drive the climate change mandate for the region through the Pacific Islands Forum, requesting more leadership from their Economic and Finance Ministers and from central line ministries. It is promising that the report on the mid-term review of the Pacific Islands Framework for Action on Climate Change (PIFACC) has noted that climate change is a cross-cutting issue and that the PIFACC needs to be implemented in line with and to take account of other related regional policies such as the Pacific Plan, the Cairns Compact for the strengthening of development coordination, the regional Oceans Policy, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Disaster Management Framework for Action, and so on. The regional architecture and focus are beginning to find alignment, and as the premier political and coordination organisation in the region, the Forum Secretariat is certainly focusing on how we can better respond to these challenges as a region with a diverse array of regional technical agencies and development partners. The establishment of the CROP Executives Group on Climate Change, which met yesterday in the next room, is an important step in addressing this issue.
At the national and most important level, it will be interesting to know how many focal points on climate change (mitigation and adaptation) will remain in the environment ministries and how many in key line ministries such as economic, planning and finance, especially as some of the latter are beginning to take a lead role in this work. Are there good links between these ministries and coordinated approaches to mainstreaming climate change into national plans and budgets which require significant understanding and ownership by central line ministries? Are national data collecting and management systems well linked to providing information on analysing future adaptation requirements, quantitatively and qualitatively?
It is essential that the stakeholders charged with the responsibility to address climate change be clear, fully coordinated and effective in mobilising, coordinating and deploying climate change policy and real action in a sustainable and sensible manner. It is absolutely critical that they have effective access to climate change resources and their management and policy systems.

Current context and mandates from our region

Forum Leaders have set the Pacific Plan priorities for the next three years on the basis of the vulnerability of Pacific communities. So, in fundamental terms, the policy of the region is focused on the need to strengthen and improve the coping abilities of all Forum countries, in terms of the natural resilience of peoples and communities, of their social and economic organisations and governance and to ensure sustainability.

Pacific Island Leaders have acknowledged that climate change is the greatest challenge of our time. Climate change threatens not only livelihoods and living standards, but also the very viability of communities. Climate change compounds the existing challenges faced by communities across all sectors and presents direct security threats in the short, medium and long terms. For the long term, it is important to bear in mind the inter-generational interests at stake and the solemn responsibility we all bear for our Pacific generations of the future.

Isolation from major markets, small population sizes and economies, vulnerability to natural disasters, fragile freshwater supplies, narrow resource bases, costly infrastructure, and extreme vulnerability to climate change and sea level rise, combine to make development challenges especially complex. You have heard all of this before. The point of emphasis is that it is therefore not surprising that the systems and policies that have evolved in the region to address these challenges, at all levels, are equally complex.

Against these already formidable factors, Pacific countries are often faced with moving goal posts when it comes to resource availability, development partner interests and capacity to implement. The various packages in which good will and support are pledged can become mirage if principles of good governance, transparency, accountability and donor best practice are not the foundation upon which they are delivered. Or, if strengthened national policy and systems are not the basis for guiding this development assistance. A common understanding, with a certain degree of trust and mutual accountability amongst all stakeholders would be required in order to effectively address these concerns.

There is also need to be clear where resources and efforts are required and thus an articulation of the priorities must be clear. In their 2010 Communiqué, Forum Leaders “recognised the importance of both concrete measures to address immediate adaptation needs, and improved climate change science and understanding of adaptive capacity, to underpin effective adaptation planning”. So as we pursue improved access to climate change resources we must ensure we have in place in the Pacific region the quantitative and qualitative information necessary to effectively utilise these resources. An obvious concern would be a situation where, for example, the international system is ready to start the flow of Copenhagen funding; and we find ourselves in the region unable to match the international effort with a credible articulation of our priorities which require funding.

As we apply this backdrop to the task before us, we must all be clear on what it is we seek to address. The ADB through the Pilot Programme for Building Climate Change Resilience has embarked on efforts to help identify some key areas for supporting some of these challenges with specific intervention as pilots. These are aimed to support the strengthened resilience to climate change impacts through national and regional action. At the same time, these areas are undergoing significant scrutiny by the region through other processes, namely, through directions emanating from the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable in late 2009, to conduct a feasibility study on establishing a regional climate change funding mechanism or facility. And more recently, by the Forum Leaders in the 2010 Communiqué by their decision for Environment and Economic Ministers to provide options on how to improve access to, and management of, climate change resources; and also for the CROP Executives to advise on how to improve access to international financing for climate change.

We must bring these efforts together because the key to addressing all of these issues is through collaboration. There is no other way: not in the circumstances of this vast and diverse region and not for a problem of this magnitude. We need a common understanding of the challenges before us all and of the prospects and opportunities that are there for our collective and coordinated action. This would require, I believe:

1. A sound understanding of the threats and impacts of climate change in the short, medium and long terms. Data and integrated data management systems across all sectors would be critical, and we must strive for them if we are to achieve and maintain this understanding;
2. Secondly, a sound understanding of the existing policies and systems needs to be in place to deal with cross cutting challenges in each country;
3. Thirdly, we need to be clear of interventions which are best applied at the national level, and where there are gains to be made through regional interventions and capacity support; and, above all
4. For effective collaboration, we need to be agreed on the types of support and comparative advantage that each of us brings to the table, and more particularly how best to deliver this support individually, and collectively if necessary, and how best countries can firmly manage this process.
Over the next couple of days, let us then combine in effort. The task will not be easy. Issues of magnitude and importance are never easy. But we have the opportunity of this Regional Workshop, and its challenge of Moving from Strategy to Action.
Thank you.

 

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