Apr 30, 2017 Last Updated 9:25 AM, Apr 12, 2017

TUVALU Prime Minister Enele Sosene Sopoaga has not rested. Barely settled at home after the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 22) in Morocco in November, Sopoaga plunged straight into laying the platform for his country’s inaugural Climate Resilience Week, while juggling an intense government budget debate in Tuvalu’s national parliament.

“There is no time to waste. This is all part of building protective measures long term. We cannot just sit around and wait for outside help and that is why we must keep the momentum going from Paris as well as Morocco,” says Sopoaga as he rounded up from yet another meeting, this time a strenuous week-long United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) regional meet in Suva in December.

Tuvalu is among those at the forefront of advocating for the inclusion of a legal mechanism to recognise the rights of persons displaced by climate change. “We are pushing for a Pacific Islands Insurance Facility for the region. There will be a specific formula which we are putting together as part of this based on things like the strength and damage of natural disasters and of course, easy access to those affected,” Sopoaga says. 

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WHILE the twenty-second Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP23) may be over, it was straight from one monumental environment event to another with the start of the thirteenth Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP13) that followed in Cancun, as well as the eighth Green Climate Fund Board Meeting hosted by Samoa.

Finding a moment of calm in this hectic international schedule, there is always a good time to reflect on the outcomes of the UNFCCC COP23 hosted in Marrakech from 7– 8 November, and to understand how some of these outcomes may impact From Paris, to Marrakech to the Pacific us here in the Pacific region.

We won’t paint a story of how climate change is impacting us in the Pacific islands as this is a story that we all know so well. We will, however have a look at what 190+ country parties have agreed to at the international level, which will eventually affect us all in our homes at the national and community level.

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Turf wars

SPC may need to absorb SPREP, says study

REDIFINING and differentiating mandates could be the way out to resolving overlapping and the so called ‘turf wars’ that exist among the many regional organisations, a study of the Australian National University has found. Stacy-ann Robinson and Daniel Gilfillan suggested that such an exercise could even result in the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the SPC, absorbing the Pacific environmental agency based in Samoa, SPREP “One option would be to focus on differentiating mandates in the Pacific, as is the case in the Caribbean.

Mandate differentiation would result in either (1) one organisation being wholly responsible for coordinating the regional response to climate change or (2) a fully coordinated approach across relevant organisations working at the regional level. The latter would require a clear delineation of roles within the coordinated response.

“An alternative to mandate differentiation is for SPREP to be incorporated into SPC as a specialised agency, similar to the CCCCC being a specialised agency of CARICOM. “Likewise, Linn and Pidufala (2008) suggested the consolidation of regional organisations, and there have been recent efforts in the Pacific to reduce the number of regional organisations.

For example, the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) was incorporated into SPC and SPREP under the Regional Institutional Framework Reform with effect from 2011.

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Where was the Pacific?

Conference offers answers but no seats

A MODERN day land-based engineering feat which has added 250 metres of the coastline of eight kilometres long on the northern coast of the Netherlands is being hailed as one of the wonders of today’s world. The Hondsbossche and Pettemer flood defences are said to be a better and more effective way to address flooding and seawater intrusion into the fertile farmlands of this European nation. But the massive cost of this artificial re-engineering makes such solutions unfeasible to small island states in the Pacific that are vulnerable to sea level rise, storm surges and king tides.

Netherlands’ Hondsbossche Dunes, for instance, cost 250 million Euros ($USD280.5m) to build. Planning and consultations lasted 10 years, and actual construction which involved offshore barges and boats sucking sand from depths of seven metres offshore and piping it ashore took an entire year with boats and machines working 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

When it opened in 2015, 35 million cubic metres of sand had added 250 metres more to the eight kilometre long Hondsbossche coastline. For this football-mad country, the new sand dunes are equivalent to the creation of 400 new soccer fields. The Hondsbossche Dunes project was one of many offered as successful climate change adaptation initiatives to the 1800 delegates of the International Conference on Climate Change Adaptation Conference in Rotterdam last month.

The Dutch Government together with the European Commission and PROVIA, the Global Programme of Research on Climate Change Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation funded the four-day long conference which brought together scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, NGO representatives and some government officials from Europe mainly, North America, Africa, Asia and South America.

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TWO months after the Pacific joined the world in adopting a new agreement on climate change, news are just emerging that all was not well within the Pacific Island Counties. Finally responding to questions submitted to his office in late December, Prime Minster of Tuvalu and lead negotiator for the Pacific Enele Sopoaga confirmed his country withdrew from joining the so called Coalition of High Ambition Nations grouping in the UN climate change negotiations in Paris.

The coalition was the brainchild of former foreign minister of the Marshall Islands Tony de Brum. de Drum was unsuccessful in his country’s general elections last November. “When this gathering of meeting first came together at a Paris Ministerial meeting in July 2015, we (Tuvalu) actively participated in the group formed by Senator de Brum. At this stage it was not called anything except a gathering of “like-minded” countries.

We participated in two subsequent meetings before the start of the Conference of Parties in Paris. We thought it was an effective means of exchange between generally like-minded countries,” explains PM Sopoaga. “But the process became more than a dialogue and started to hold press conferences and pull in other countries, which were not so like-minded. It also branded itself as the Coalition of High Ambition Nations. It was at this stage that we withdrew from this grouping.

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