‘Enhancing Regional Cooperation for Climate Change Resilience’
I am pleased to be here and thank the organisers for your kind invitation to present the keynote address on Enhancing Regional Cooperation for Climate Change Resilience to share the challenges, how we at the regional level are working together and how we can further contribute toward strengthening resilience at national levels. In light of the effects of Cyclone Winston, the drought in the Western and North Pacific and Cyclone Pam, I could not consider a more relevant theme for this year’s meeting.
In the Pacific, as well as in Asia, the effect of the changing climate is our daily reality – an increasingly harsh reality that impacts all aspects of life, including housing, food security and of course, livelihoods. These leave us with some critical questions on current progress and possible future paths that we cannot avoid facing.
As the Chair of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific, it is our work and priority to ensure that regional cooperation complements the actions of our member countries. 14 Forum Member Countries have signed the Paris Agreement, six of which have also ratified. Their actions in the coming months and years will inform the shape and type of support we, at the regional level, will provide to build resilience. I take this opportunity to commend the Government of Samoa for being one of the six countries that recently signed and ratified the Paris Agreement.
There are administrative and economic merits to a regional approach to strengthening resilience at national levels. But more importantly we need look no further than the connection between protecting forests and eco-systems in the Western Pacific to the sustainability of the ocean we share and the air we breathe to understand that combined actions are necessary.
The Vulnerability of the Pacific
We live in a beautiful but vulnerable region that is vulnerable to a variety of disaster events, occasioned by both natural and human made hazards, which cause increasing human and economic costs. The situation is exacerbated when combined with slow onset events and other challenges such as population pressure and poorly planned development.
Of the top twenty countries with the highest average annual disaster losses, scaled by GDP, eight are Pacific Island Countries (Vanuatu, Niue, Tonga, the Federated States of Micronesia, Solomon Islands, Fiji, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Cook Islands).
Since 1950, extreme weather events have affected approximately 9.2 million people in the Pacific region, with 9,811 reported deaths and estimated damage of USD 3.2 billion. We know that 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 is estimated will be as high as FJD 1 billion.
As a region we aspire to be resilient in our development and resilient development entails understanding and addressing risks in an integrated, systematic and effective manner. But how do we get there? What are the impediments? What guides the actions of CROP agencies such as PIFS, SPC or SPREP to work together and do better?
At the regional level, the Forum Secretariat and relevant regional agencies need to ensure that the focus of our work in this area is on more than adaptation or disaster preparation and includes climate and disaster risk management considerations into all of our development decisions and actions. We need to look beyond the current lens that separates climate change from disaster risk reduction and focus on building resilience as a key plank in national, regional and global development.
In following few sections I will explore the rationale for regional action and the benefits from the associated coordination, cooperation and financing when it comes to supporting national challenges.
What types of Actions are Possible?
Regional efforts should meaningfully integrate variable capacities, needs and risks and focus on preparedness. Some initial ideas discussed by Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers last year, include supporting national capacity through initiatives such as a vetted roster of skilled people in relevant areas, pre-organised procurement of necessary supplies with private companies, and South-South attachments of staff with expertise in fund administration and partner coordination, all of which can all be developed in advance of the next disaster.
Forum Island Countries (FICs) could achieve economies of scale by standardising approaches to save costs, pooling capabilities, improving coordination of risk reduction efforts, and expanding initiatives that would seek to share risks across the region by establishing regional climate and disaster risk management mechanisms. Specific examples include:
To enhance the regional response, we need to focus on who can best deliver for the countries and how they can be supported. Those that are closest to the countries such as the regional organisations can provide that best fit.
There is also benefit in continuing the current dialogue and collaboration on resilience building, as well as expanding the conversation to include other relevant stakeholders, particularly the private sector and non-government organisations. Ideas and suggestions from the Pacific need to be supported and seriously considered by partners and to be focused on who can deliver.
A specific example of the relevance of regional cooperation in this area is the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative (PCRAFI), led by the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, and supported by the Government of Japan and the European Union. PCRAFI has developed a disaster risk information system and has launched a risk insurance pilot under the Pacific Disaster Risk Financing Initiative in five Pacific island countries, to increase financial resilience against natural hazards, and to provide immediate liquidity when a major disaster hits a country.
However, why stop here? There are no deficit of ideas in the Pacific and this initiative can be made better. Tuvalu, through their Prime Minister has made a suggestion to build and expand on his country’s experience to suggest a Pacific Islands Climate Change Insurance Facility. Regional in coverage and more specific in the range of services that can be provided. This could be a new development of building the regions resilience.
A regional approach to building resilience
Development partners have mostly operated at a bilateral level and on a project specific basis regarding disaster risk management and climate change. This has often led to poorly coordinated support and stretches national capacity to implement these multiple projects.
The Forum Secretariat is working with partners, under the aegis of the Forum Compact on Aid Effectiveness, to ensure that development partner assistance combines policy support, improved preparedness and response, as well as investments for risk reduction in various sectors (particularly, in infrastructure, urban development, agriculture, water and coastal management). That is, encouraging a holistic approach to development financing for resilience.
Most Pacific Island Countries are also taking concrete steps to manage risks in a more integrated manner in recognition of the clear overlaps between climate change adaptation and Disaster Risk Management, recognising that similar tools and resources are required to monitor, analyse and address climate change and disaster risks. For example, many countries have developed Joint National Action Plans for disaster risk management and climate change; merged national institutional arrangements for climate change and disaster risk management; and/or adopted integrated measures at programmatic level.
The integrated approach is also adopted at the regional level with the development of a combined regional strategy – the Strategy for Resilient Development in the Pacific: An Integrated Approach to Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management (SRDP). Currently there are two separate regional strategies for climate change and disaster risk management, respectively and both will conclude in the near future.
The next phase of work is to secure the endorsement of the SRDP by Pacific Island Forum Island Leaders at their 2016 meeting in FSM. The strategy will then shape a program of specific support undertaken by the regional organisations as they seek to backstop national resilience plans
A Partnership for Pacific Resilience
Any strategy can play an important role for guiding actions but coordination and cooperation need partners. In previous years we have had separate meetings of professionals in climate change, disaster risk management and finance. If we truly consider that resilient development entails understanding and addressing natural hazard risks in an integrated, systematic and effective manner, then no one group, country or partner can do this alone it needs the collective effort.
In recognition of this, a Pacific Resilience Partnership (PRP) will be established. The PRP will bring together the disaster risk management and climate change communities of practice, along with relevant partners to better coordinate and streamline regionally supported assistance this will be led by SPREP and SPC.
The Pacific Resilience Partnership will include a broad range of stakeholders with common interests and concerns, for example, in disaster preparedness, early warning capability, engineering skills, emergency management expertise, procurement capability, risk reduction, and so on. This will help complement other mechanisms specifically designed to assist countries strengthen their preparedness and response. That may have previously been lacking the necessary broad based support of countries and regional organisations.
Forum Foreign Ministers supported the establishment of this partnership at their meeting in Sydney in July 2015. The partnership should be launched sometime in the second half of 2016.
Means of Implementing Resilience
Partnership, political support and coordination are important but finance also plays a key role. To address this, the Forum Secretariat and regional partners have developed a multi-tiered approach to progress this work in collaboration with member countries and various stakeholders. To that end a range of work has been undertaken for Leaders and Economic Ministers. Some of the key observations and lessons have been:
Specific support for the development of using the Pacific Climate Change Financing Assessment Framework beyond the studies completed in Nauru, RMI and Tonga will provide a particularly powerful aid to country discussions with development partners and improve the ability of CROP to provide practical and specific support through the Regional Technical Support Mechanism and other related initiative to support improved access to finance.
How the Forum Secretariat is building Resilience
The Forum Secretariat has provided specific support to Pacific Island Countries in several ways:
Disasters, climate variability or extreme weather and future changes in climate, are increasingly recognized as a core development challenge as they adversely impact social and economic development. Poor populations tend to live in higher-risk areas, making them more likely to be affected by adverse natural events. More importantly, the vulnerability of the poor to natural disasters and the effects of climate change are expected to increase due to increased population pressure, pushing the poor to live in more marginal, risk prone areas. Hence, there is widespread acceptance of the need for mainstreaming climate and disaster risk into development planning and financing.
There is a need for genuine commitment for a combined response to disaster risk management and climate change adaptation to be considered as a key sustainable development imperative. The specific link between the Paris Agreement, the Sendai Framework, the SDGs, the SAMOA Pathway and the Framework for Pacific Regionalism rest on the recognition of the specific vulnerability of SIDS to climate change and disaster risk. Regardless of income level the development of a SIDS can be very quickly reversed by the effects of an extreme hazard risk event which results in a disaster. As a result, the focus should be to build resilience rather than to focus on specific disaster or climate change aspects.
Finally, national, local and regional capacity to address risks associated with disasters and climate change will be supported through the draft regional Strategy for Resilient Development in the Pacific, which provides guidance on strategic efforts to reduce risk and impacts in a cohesive, inclusive and holistic manner.
Thank you for your attention.